Why Would Good Christians Ever Complain About Faith-Based Family-Friendly Films?

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Joshua Gibbs, writing a review of the new N. D. Wilson film, The River Thief, helpfully summarizes some of the usual problems with the genre:

The typical hero of a faith-based film measures their own satisfaction with the ending by the metric ton. If you stuck a teaspoon in the ending of the average Christian film, you’d pull it out dripping with enough sweet goo to give everyone in the world a mouthful of cavities. We don’t merely like redemption. We want redemption spelled out in letters large enough they can be seen from space.

The challenge, then, for anyone who has set out to make a film for Christians, is to not give the audience what they want, but to give them something good instead. . . .

Most Christian films do not require or even allow the viewer to search for secondary meaning in the sets, the untouched objects which fill the sets, the costumes, the names of the characters. The marriage in Fireproof is no marriage, but a token marriage. The characters are not characters, but token characters who don’t have real problems, but token problems. The things in most Christian films do not seem like real things, but placeholders for ideas. The token character is an end unto itself, and there is nothing more to see or discern than what is cursory—unlike a real human being, or even a real character, who can be known more deeply over the course of time.

Wilson has made a film which repays a roving eye and a curious imagination. I could probably still find new correlations and connections between the characters on a second viewing, and that’s not a claim I have ever made about a faith-based film.

You can watch the film here or start with the trailer below:

 

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