God’s Not Dead is a faith-based movie that, as of Easter Sunday, had made over $48 million dollars at the box office on a movie that cost around $2 million to make. So by all accounts, the movie is a massive success. The question is, however, is the movie any good? Is it a movie that has crossover appeal, or is it a movie that happened to make it to the big screen, and through a strong marketing campaign, pulled in a lot of Christian viewers?
Like most faith-based films, there are many things to like about the movie, and many to not like. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, and it had me in tears several times, as my twelve-year-old son like to pointed out. However, there were plot lines that were both silly and exploitative, and will be a turnoff to anyone who goes to the movies to enjoy a good story. I’ll get into it more later, but at times, the movie tries to tell a message, and does so at the expense of a good story.
The movie takes place on a college campus, where Josh Wheaton, played by Shane Harper, is challenged by Professor Raddison, played by Kevin Sorbo, to prove God is not dead over the course of three class periods. There are several other story lines that revolve around the campus, and all of them intersect at the end of the movie.
But the movie excels any time Harper and Sorbo are on the screen, and it’s because they are solid actors. Harper, especially, from the Disney’ kid’s sitcom, “Good Luck, Charlie,” does a great job as Josh, the student challenged to stick up for Jesus at the expense of his college career, his girlfriend, and his future. His debates with Sorbo are inspiring and the best part of the movie. After the movie, my son asked me if the actor was really a Christian in real life? I didn’t know, but Harper plays the part with conviction and passion, and had me convinced he was ready to risk it all for God.
There are other story lines, and most don’t fare as well. Radisson (played by Sorbo of Hercules fame) is dating a former student who happens to be a Christian, and his disdain for his faith makes their relationship unbelievable. There is also a Muslim student hiding her faith from her father. There is a left-wing blog writer trying to expose Christian public figures who finds out she has cancer, and is dumped my her money loving boy friend (Dean Cain of Lois and Clark in the 1990s.)
I need to make mention of this one plot line as an example of weak, almost harmful story telling. It is so silly and full of holes that any non-Christians might just be turned off by the poor movie making that they won’t take the rest of the movie seriously.
David White plays Reverend Dave and he is hosting a visiting missionary. The two are planning on taking a short trip. Rev. Dave feels like God isn’t using him to help people. So, when the get in the car to leave, it won’t start. They rent a car. Rev. Dave tries to start the rental and it won’t start. Then another rental, and it won’t start either. The car will start for others, but not Rev. Dave. The message of the movie is clear. God wants and needs Rev. Dave to not go anywhere because he will be needed later. This is true, and I also have no doubt God could make the car not start, but it just feels like a cheap gimmick in the movie to keep Rev. Dave in town.
Overall, the movie is a must see. The climax at the Newsboys concert was a lot of fun and offered a few twists as all the plotlines came together. This is an interesting time in the movie industry, with several faith-based films getting released like Heaven is For Real, God’s Not Dead, Mom’s Night Out, and of course there is Noah.
Yes I recommend this movie to all Christians or those interested in faith-based films. Is this a movie to show to people who are not Christians? Sadly, I’m not sure. The core of the movie about the argument is definitely one you could share with non-believers, but the rest of the movie isn’t up to that standard.