Pop-Culture is an arena dominated by a secular worldview. Because of this, whenever a faith-based movie is released in mainstream theaters, Christians hold our collective breaths! Courageous, after earning almost 9 million it’s opening weekend despite being screened in far fewer theaters than other box office releases, made a strong case that Sherwood Pictures is doing something right.
Now, I’ll have to be honest. I wasn’t a big fan of Facing the Giants (although I usually like football movies) and wasn’t thrilled with Fireproof (although firemen are the bomb). Of course I loved the themes presented in each of those, but I felt like they fell plague to the curse that most Christian entertainment does: cheesiness. Whether it is Christian music, movies, or (a soapbox for another day) T-shirts, Christians seem to only make art that has absolutely no substance. They often preach so loudly that the world hardly takes notice (except to ridicule) and are left to simply entertain church youth groups on their bus rides to camp. That’s fine and serves a certain purpose I suppose, but I really feel like Christians can do better.
I was privileged to attend an advanced screening at the Fox Theater back in August, and actually met several of the actors. I didn’t really know what to expect since I knew nothing about the film prior to the screening. I was pleasantly surprised. Sure, it definitely has it’s cheesy moments of “Did they just go there?” but the Sherwood filmmakers have grown by leaps and bounds in every area. The acting is better, the film quality is better, the humor is better, and there are action scenes (what?! Don’t worry, no guts.).
The story centers around four policemen and their realization that the courage they display in their daily jobs must start at home with their families. If you have success at work, and yet lose what’s really important, everything falls apart. And it does, when tragedy strikes the central family. Most of you have probably already seen it, so I won’t go into detail about the plot, other than to say reality comes barging in on all these men and they are forced to make some serious decisions regarding what it really means to be a man.
What I noticed most is that Sherwood is really starting to find their stride. The added humor (especially a scene in which a character pretends to be a psychotic gang leader in the back of a police car to scare his seat-mate into submission) adds a lot to an otherwise very emotional plot. There are several tender moments that had me (as a pretty unemotional guy) sniffling (but just a little!) because of their depth. The actions scenes bookending the movie also add some adrenaline that you need in a movie about cops!
Of course, there is the obligatory conversion scene with the agnostic cop coming to terms with his need for a Savior. But even this was done in a much better fashion than in previous efforts, and I found myself hearing words I have used in sharing the truth of the gospel in real-life situations. I probably would have made the movie about 30 minutes shorter, just because it seems to attempt too much (by following the story-arc of 5 main characters) for one film.
Of course, secular critics will (and have) had a field day lambasting it for being preachy or cheesy or narrow-minded. And this is where I get fired up. Do people honestly expect a movie made by a church to say nothing about God? Preachy? Yeah, it’s made by two pastors! What makes me so angry is that every movie preaches something. Mark Driscoll has said that movies are simply sermons using pictures. Did a movie like “Brokeback Mountain” preach a certain worldview? Duh, and yet it won 3 Academy Awards. In an industry run almost exclusively by secular filmmakers, actors, and philosophies, apparently there just isn’t room for a Christian voice. For a culture that is supposedly open to free expressions of art, I’m disgusted (but not surprised) by the reactions of most film critics reviewing this movie. Is it perfect? Definitely not. But review it on the basis of it’s film credibility and artistic expression, not based on the fact that you have a problem with anything Jesus-related.
That’s a rant I could go on for much longer, but I’ll save it for another time! In the end, Sherwood Pictures is inspiring to me because they don’t just sit back and criticize Hollywood for making movies celebrating secular values; they have entered the fray and gone where few Christian artists have dared to go. As with the Truth Dare in Fireproof, Courageous also promotes the message of the movie through books and the Courageous Resolution for dads. It does not seek to simply entertain, but to transform people and thus transform culture through the gospel of Jesus. And for that goal, I applaud them.