In the modern world that we live in, a lot of atheists have dismissed the idea that there is a God that has created the universe. Friedrich Nietzsche coined the phrase “God is dead”. Move over, Nietzsche. While science and technology have been continually advancing, the Bible still maintains its relevance today. God could not be any more alive. Regarding atheists, the Bible is right about them. “The fool says in his heart ‘There is no God’ “. (Psalm 14:1)
So where am I getting with this argument? It actually pertains to the movie God’s Not Dead, a film released by Pure Flix Entertainment and Red Entertainment Group. The arguments that I made in the beginning are seen throughout the movie. God’s Not Dead is an inspiring movie that deserves more respect than what it has been given from critics. Upon reading this, you will not find a better rating for this movie anywhere else.
Why? The evidence speaks for itself. This movie has been panned by critics and the atheism community at large. It is harshly criticized due to its negative portrayal of an atheist. Due to the all the negative press from the rabble, this movie has not performed very well at the box office. But performance doesn’t mean anything if the film is good at its core. How well does this movie fare in a room full of blockbusters? Is God’s Not Dead a movie that boldly stands up against its adversaries or does it cower away in a shameful failure? Let’s find out.
As I said already, you will not find a better rating for this movie anywhere else. God’s Not Dead is a good movie, but these words alone are not enough to prove my position. To demonstrate why this movie is good, I will provide evidence to support my opinion. By the end of this review, you will see why the verdict is so clear on my part.
Exhibit A: The introduction. Right away, I am taken into the life of a freshman about to begin college. The film begins with Josh Wheaton (Shane Harper) getting his schedule for his freshman classes. The guy registering him sees that he’s enrolled in Professor Radisson’s (Kevin Sorbo) Intro to Philosophy class. Upon inspecting Wheaton’s cross necklace, he convinces him to get another instructor. When asked why, he said “think Roman colosseum”. Wheaton disagrees, as getting another instructor would cause a conflict in all of his other scheduled classes. Upon Wheaton’s insistence, the guy gives him an expression like “it’s your funeral”. Meanwhile, Amy Ryan (Trisha LaFache), a businesswoman and animal rights blogger is on her way to interview Willie Robertson from Duck Dynasty.
When Wheaton attends his first philosophy class, Professor Radisson wastes no time in affirming his lesson plan. All of the notable scholars listed on the whiteboard are all atheists. To waste no time on what Radisson considers to be fairytales and superstitions, he has the whole class sign on a piece of paper that “God is Dead”. This will ensure the 30% of the grade that they need to pass. Wheaton refuses, to the surprise of Radisson and the whole class. This upsets Radisson, having one student ruin the unanimous decision. To have Wheaton keep his grade, he offers him a challenge. Wheaten has to prove the opposite. That God is not dead. During the last 20 minutes of each class, Wheaton must present arguments to the entire class, proving that God is not dead. Wheaton accepts, and the challenge begins. A challenge that could put Wheaton’s faith, friendships and academic future in jeopardy. So how does Josh Wheaton fare? Can Wheaton successfully defend his position to the whole class or will he chicken out? And what about the animal rights blogger? What does she have to do with the plot? I would love to tell you, but you will have to watch the movie and find out.
Exhibit B: The plot. If you were to look at the plot, there are actually six different plots going on at the same time. Towards the end, they all converge into one. We have the main plot with Wheaton vs. Radisson, the animal rights blogger plot, a plot with a Muslim girl named Ayisha (Hadeel Sittu) who hides her Christian faith from her father, a plot with Mina (Cory Oliver), a girl who has to deal with her relationship and her mother with dementia, a plot with Martin Yip (Paul Kwo), a Chinese foreign exchange student who’s in the same class as Wheaton and a plot with Pastor Dave (David A.R. White) taking Reverend Jude (Benjamin Ochieng), an African missionary on a vacation where things go horribly wrong. As ADD as the multiple plots seemed, it all seemed to work out at the end. And I loved how it worked out. Also, the plot gets really emotional towards the end.
Exhibit C: The characters. I loved the wide variety of characters, and what each did to add to the story. We have Josh Wheaton, Professor Raddison, Amy Ryan, Ayisha, Mina, Mark (Dean Cain), Martin Yip, Pastor Dave, Reverend Jude and a few others. There are celebrity cameos from Willie and Korie Robertson from Duck Dynasty and the Newsboys. The characters accomplished what the film tried to achieve. To tell a dramatic story of one student’s struggle, along with the struggles of others.
Exhibit D: The nitpicks. Okay. This actually serves as a counterargument as to why I like this movie. But for a balanced review, both sides of the story must be presented. I thought that certain parts of the movie might have been exaggerated a little too much. For the non-Christians in the movie, they are severely punished or made terminally ill in some way. While this sometimes plays out in reality, the opposite can also happen. Just like the righteous, God allows the wicked to prosper. The following quote from the mother with dementia nails it. She says “Sometimes the devil allows people to live a life free of trouble because he doesn’t want them turning to God. Their sin is like a jail cell, except it is all nice and comfy and there doesn’t seem to be any reason to leave. The door’s wide open. Till one day, time runs out, and the cell door slams shut, and suddenly it’s too late.” While this is a good quote, the Non-Christians are the ones that end up in trouble. While I understand what they are trying to do in the movie, this may be a major turn-off for a non-Christian. Just remove the exaggerations and show more Non-Christians prospering. This would make that mother with dementia’s quote more valid. This could’ve even been done with (SPOILERS) Radisson on his death bed. While some do come to faith during the last minutes of their life, some do not. It is the sovereign act of God’s grace. And if Radisson, was true to his character, he would’ve died an atheist. While I do know that people like him can get saved, it’s all about finding a balance so that the movie can achieve a higher degree of realism. My one other nitpick is a minor one, and it’s the overused gag of Pastor Dave’s rental car not starting. The first one was funny. The second one was okay. The third was starting to get old. I would’ve retired it after two rentals and use some other plot device to underscore something going wrong on Reverend Jude’s vacation.
Having presented my evidence, we will now move to the verdict. How did God’s Not Dead do in the box office? By Hollywood standards, this film was a total failure. But I don’t use Hollywood’s standards. I use my own for each review. The movie grossed $48.3 million worldwide. And by worldwide, I mean the United States, since it’s not playing anywhere else. And with a production budget of $2 million, the movie made back almost 2500% of the original budget. And if you look at Noah, the last movie that I reviewed, it only made back 232% of its budget. This gives God’s Not Dead a return that’s over 10 times higher. With petty nitpicks aside, this movie is a must see. And for those who complain about Willie and the Newsboys being in the movie, get over it. It’s called product positioning and it’s done with every movie in the business. Even the films that you love to watch. If you can get over the exaggerated characterization of the “enemies” in the movie, this film offers a solid multi-faceted plot about struggles culminating with an emotional roller coaster at the end. It looks at the power of truth and how one student stands up for what he believes in. A picture of what is going on in college classrooms every day. Now you have heard me say that you will not find a better rating for this movie anywhere else. And I don’t think you will. Ignoring all the major critics, I give God’s Not Dead a 4 out of 5.
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