Dog’s Movie House: “God’s Not Dead 2” Self Righteous Sermonizing Dreck!
Howdy Folks! It’s The Kendog!
This seems to be the time of the year when the faith-based movie studios kick it into overdrive. Now anyone who knows me knows I’m not exactly what you call a “true believer,” but to me, a faith-based film is like any other. If it’s a quality film, I judge it on its merits as a movie, not as a religious experience. Films like “Heaven Is For Real,” “Risen,” and “Miracles From Heaven” are all fairly decent films, regardless of ones beliefs. But when you get to a sledgehammering sermon like “God’s Not Dead 2” one feels compelled to tell one and all about this cinematic suckfest to keep people from pissing their money away on one of the worst films I’ve ever seen.
“God’s Not Dead 2” tells the tale of Grace Wesley (Melissa Joan Hart) a devoutly religious woman who just happens to be a high school history teacher. When one of her students asks her a question regarding the similarities between Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, and Jesus, Grace answers with quotes from the scripture. It’s a reasonable, academic answer, but in this world, her actions qualify as forcing her beliefs down the throats of helpless students. Before you can say “Joan of Arc” Grace is not only hauled up before the school board, but also sued by the parents of the student who asked the question, their representation coming in the form of a lawyer so evil that you can practically smell the brimstone coming off the screen. Fortunately, Grace is represented by an idealistic young lawyer named Tom Endler (Jesse Metcalfe), who, while not a believer, is a hunky good guy who will break all the rules if it means getting a decision in favor of the pious young Grace.
If I sound a little snarkier than usual, I guess you can attribute it to a defense mechanism that pops into place whenever someone preaches at me. This film is a sermon disguised as a story: a bait-and-switch that makes you believe you’re going to watch an objective theological courtroom drama but instead delivers a pro-Jesus message so ham-handed that I can still feel the sledgehammer marks on the side of my noggin. Every character who is a believer in this film is portrayed as upright and moral and tolerant to the point of nausea, while everyone else is portrayed as a total scumbag. The teaching staff (led by a strident Robin Givens) come off as hypocritical asses whose sole interest seems to be throwing Grace so far under the bus that tire tracks are going to become part of her permanent complexion. Ray Wise plays the lead attorney Peter Kane with such malevolence that he reminds one of an Austin Powers villain rather than a legitimate officer of the court. The sensibilities of this film are so out of whack that I found myself for the first time in a long time actually getting angry while watching the film. Nobody likes to be told they are less, even in an indirect way such as this, and I felt like I was being judged based on the actions of those onscreen. In hindsight, it’s a silly notion, but it doesn’t make it any less valid.
When the trial finally arrives it’s as if director Harold Kronk and writers Chuck Konzelman and Cary Solomon haven’t the first clue of how a court case works. Rules are ignored, jurors are dismissed solely on the basis of what television show they watch, and underage high schoolers are permitted to testify just because they really, really want to. Never mind the fact that the girl in question enters from the side of the courtroom where they take prisoners, is not a deposed witness, and is a minor to boot. Yet in the interest of this nonsensical story, the judge (played by a what-the-hell-am-I-doing-here Ernie Hudson) lets her up on the stand without so much as a how-do-ya-do. It’s been a few days since I’ve seen this film and my eyeballs still hurt from rolling so much.
In a film this bad, it’s almost impossible to review the performances by the actors since they are all part of the filmmakers religious agenda, but I have to say the Metcalfe stands out as the least offensive performance of the bunch. His character is as idiotic as the rest of the bunch, but at least he has some charisma and some energy. Everyone else gets buried under this religious propaganda machine.
I want to be very clear here: this is not an attack on faith. I’ve always believed one’s relationship (or lack thereof) is of a personal nature. Believe what you want; it’s our differences that make the world such an interesting place. My vitriol is reserved solely for the makers of this film who clearly believe that dressing up a self-righteous sermon in the form of a legal drama is the best way to get their message across. In doing so, the makers of “God’s Not Dead 2” have turned what could have been a fascinating film into a reprehensible bit of propaganda that left me feeling in need of a shower. It is not an overstatement to say that this was one of the ugliest experiences I’ve ever had at a movie theater. 0 Out Of 5 On Kendog’s Barkometer! So Sayeth The Kendog!
“God’s Not Dead 2” is Rated PG for some thematic elements.