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The latest faith-based movie from the producers and screenwriters of last year’s grassroots hit God’s Not Dead begins with a biblical quote: “Faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.” It then proceeds to belabor that undeniably worthy lesson for the better part of two hours.
Uncomfortably aping Paul Haggis‘ Oscar-winning Crash to the point where it ends with, yes, a crash, Do You Believe? presents the interconnected stories of twelve souls, I mean characters, whose lives are affected by a pastor, Matthew (Ted McGinley), who hands out tiny wooden crosses during his sermon and advises his parishioners to do good deeds. He was inspired to do so by an encounter with a street-corner preacher (Delroy Lindo) carrying a large cross who asks him the titular question.
“I’m a pastor,” Matthew reasonably replies, but the answer doesn’t quite satisfy his interlocutor.
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We’re then introduced to such figures as the homeless Samantha (Mira Sorvino) and her adorable young daughter, Lily (Makenzie Moss), who are befriended by church janitor Joe (Brian Bosworth, a long way from the likes of Stone Cold), whose persistent cough clearly doesn’t signify anything good; middle-aged couple J.D. (Lee Majors) and Teri (Cybill Shepherd), still mourning the loss of their daughter to a drunken driver years earlier; EMT Bobby (Liam Matthews), who proselytizes to a dying man and faces losing his job for it; his wife Elena (Valerie Dominguez), an ER nurse who works alongside an atheistic doctor (Sean Astin) who resents God being given credit for his efforts; her ex-soldier brother Carlos (Joseph Julian Soria), suffering from post-traumatic stress and the suicidal Lacey (Alexa PenaVega), who meet while they’re both contemplating leaping from a bridge; and gang member Pretty Boy (Schwayze), who becomes spiritually born again after committing a robbery.
Director Jonathan M. Gunn and screenwriters Chuck Konzelman and Cary Solomon are hard-pressed to provide the superfluous characters and situations sufficient depth, with the proceedings featuring enough melodramatic plot developments and homilies to fuel a religious soap opera. Even the more interesting storylines, most notably the one involving the EMT who refuses to denounce his faith at the risk of financial ruination, are undermined by excessive coincidences. Case in point: the lawyer suing him is the doctor’s wife (Andreas Logan White).
It all culminates with a massive multi-vehicle pile-up on a bridge located near a giant illuminated cross, featuring nearly all of the major characters, with one car dangling precariously over the water, a homeless pregnant teen giving birth (“There’s no time to get to the hospital, this baby is coming!” the pastor declares) and the EMT coming to the rescue of–oh, the irony–the lawyer who threatened his job.
And that’s not to mention the miraculous coming back to life of one character who had been declared dead by the doctor a full eight minutes earlier.
Clearly flush with the profits from their previous hit, the filmmakers have delivered an effort with solid production values and a cast stuffed with familiar (if faded) stars giving performances fully committed to the agenda-spouting material.
As with so many faith-based projects, this film, opening on some 1200 screens, wasn’t screened in advance to the press. It’s as if its creators just didn’t have any faith.
Production: Pure Flix Entertainment, 10 West Studios, Believe Entertainment
Cast: Mira Sorvino, Sean Astin, Cybil Shepherd, Delroy Lindo, Lee Majors, Alexa PenaVega, Ted McGinley, Brian Bosworth, Andreas Logan White, Joseph Julian Soria, Madison Pettis, Valerie Dominguez, Tracy Melchior, Liam Matthews, Schwayze
Director: Jonathan M. Gunn
Screenwriters: Chuck Konzelman, Cary Solomon
Producers: David A. R. White, Michael Scott, Russell Wolfe, Elizabeth Travis
Executive producer: Brent Ryan Green
Director of photography: Brian Shanley
Production designer: Dallas Montgomery
Editor: Vance Null
Composer: Will Musser
Casting: Billy DaMota, Dea Vise
Rated PG-13, 119 min.
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