Hey everyone, took a short break from my movie reviews as I was moving locations in the real world but I’m settled in, back in action and getting caught up. First, we look at The Case for Christ, directed by Jon Gunn, starring Mike Vogel and Erika Christensen and with appearances by Faye Dunaway, Robert Forster and Frankie Faison. The screenplay by Brian Bird is based on the 1998 book by Lee Strobel, played by Mike Vogel in the film, formerly an investigative journalist for the Chicago Tribune until his studies in faith and the resurrection convinced him that his status as an atheist was wrong and he became a pastor and full-time Christian apologist.
The purpose of this film is not subtle. It was produced by Triple Horse Studios, a company which also brought us such hits as Vanished – Left Behind: Next Generation and One Generation Away – The Erosion of Religious Liberty and was distributed by Pure Flix Entertainment, an independent Christian film and television studio which also produced God’s Not Dead. The point of this film is to convert people to Christianity and I have to comment on this because it influences every shot and performance and certainly is central to the plot and dialogue.
The movie is laid out as a true story based on Lee Strobel’s experiences in 1980 when his wife, Leslie, as played by Erika Christensen, converted to Christianity after years of being a self-proclaimed atheist. Their daughter had been choking at a restaurant and an off-duty nurse happened to be there to save her life. Leslie was shaken by the experience and profusely thanks the nurse Alfie Davis, played by L. Scott Caldwell. Alfie tells her, though, to direct her thanks to Christ and not to Alfie, which sets Leslie on a journey of faith. Leslie continues to meet with Alfie, who helps her with Bible studies and convinces Leslie that the reason for the coincidence of Alfie being present to save her son was God’s intervention.
This conversion rocks Lee’s world and he reacts badly to it. During the course of the film, he is alternately caught up in covering a police shooting and a somewhat obsessive investigation into whether the resurrection of Christ really happened. His idea is that if he can prove it didn’t, he would undo the whole point of Christianity itself and deconvert his wife in the process. The film follows Lee’s unsuccessful attempt to prove Christ is wrong as well as the major mistakes he makes at his job which results in an innocent man going to prison because of what Lee reported.
Now the police shooting sub-plot pretty much proves to us, the audience, that Lee is not a great investigator or journalist, but this is only compounded by the huge holes in logic and reasoning which he falls in over and over again as he is investigating The Resurrection. His reasoning is so bad as to be laugh-out-loud ridiculous and undermine everything this film is trying to do in showing rational, reasoned arguments for Christ’s existence, crucifixion and return to life. If you are looking to Lee Strobel to provide you with that kind of rationality, you are going to be sorely disappointed. The film’s logical approach to proving what cannot be proven and what in the end is really a decision based on emotion and not reason, is why I feel it keeps falling down. Eventually, it’s not the evidence that convinces Lee so much as he has exhausted his resources and his own ability to think beyond the narrative that’s fed to him by one believer after another until he finally decides to have his own emotional epiphany and he converts himself rather than lose his wife and children over this exaggerated and wholly overblown problem he himself created.
As a purely cinematic work, the film is barely competent, with laughably bad acting on almost everyone’s part, coming off as just barely above a student film level of coherence. Everyone in frame is there to either to do one of two things: (1) service Lee in some fashion by asking him questions or telling him things which are supposed to move the narrative forward or (2) give him a hard time about something he’s doing wrong so as to drive him more and more into desperation over the sad circumstances which he was 100% responsible for creating in the first place. Maybe in real life, Strobel is a great guy but as a film character, I found no compelling reason from beginning to end to care about him. Beautiful, loving wife? Check. Beautiful kids? Check. Cool guy you’d want to have a beer with? Absolutely not. The guy comes off totally self-absorbed and argumentative and although he likes to act like he’s the smartest guy in the room, he never is.
The screening I went to was sponsored by a local Christian church and included pre-movie snippets of Lee Strobel and others talking about how this film is supposed to be used by Christian believers to bring their atheist, unbelieving friends to as a means of converting them. Well, I can pretty much guarantee this film is a collosal fail on that count, mainly because every atheist I know can out-reason Lee Strobel in his investigation and because the film treats Christ’s ressurection as a literal event which had to take place in order for Christianity to be true, which itself is a profoundly false premise. There is no reason that the entire Resurrection fable could not be read and interpreted as allegory and parable, as so much of the rest of the Bible is, instead of having to go into literal fundamentalist interpretations. I think it’s an interesting statement about where some Christian’s heads are at that they feel the need to defend their religion in this way, because it’s not a good defense.
One thing I will also comment on, in case no one knows this, but Erika Christensen not only stars as Leslie Strobel but also received an Associate Producer credit on this film and is herself a Scientologist, the exact opposite of Christianity in many ways. There was some attention on whether Erika was part of this film because she may have left Scientology but sadly that is not the case and she simply did this project for a paycheck, which kind of tells you something about where her career is at.
The Case for Christ is a not a good case, it’s not a good movie, it’s not a good time. I am giving this one a rating of Total Suckage and I recommend that you simply avoid this one like the plague of bad writing, acting and directing that it is. There are a hell of a lot of better things you can do with your time, such as watching your grass grow or playing mini-golf with a bent putter. Thanks for watching and I’ll see you guys next time.