After a local pastor, Matthew (Ted McGinley), is shaken by the visible act of faith from a street-corner preacher (Delroy Lindo) involved in a holdup, he is reminded that true faith always requires action. Upon retelling his experience during his message to his congregation, various individuals are impacted as their lives intersect each other. Among them are Samantha (Mira Sorvino), a widowed mother; Joe (Brian Bosworth), a reformed convict dying of cancer; Bobby (Liam Matthews), an EMT who stands to lose everything over his convictions; and Teri (Cybill Shepherd) and J.D. (Lee Majors), two parents who lost their daughter in a drunk driving accident.
Brought to us by the good people at Pure Flix Entertainment, Do You Believe? wasn’t exactly high on my most anticipated list, and slapping “FROM THE CREATORS OF GOD’S NOT DEAD” wasn’t gonna help matters either. Was I looking forward to another melodramatic Sunday school lesson? No. So, prior to entering the theater, I strapped on a football helmet to protect myself from the inevitable beatdown I’d receive from all the sugarcoated messages (of which I was already bludgeoned into a blackout from just the litany of Pure Flix trailers that preceded the film), and prepared myself for the equally inevitable Antichrist accusations from fellow Christians in the event I didn’t find this film to be nothing short of amazing, ’cause that’s what God would want, right?
I’ll never claim to speak for God, but I kinda like to believe he too is in favor of a well-written script and competent filmmaking.
That said, this film isn’t nearly as bad as I was expecting it to be.
Not that it’s good either, but I found myself rolling my eyes less than I did during God’s Not Dead… and Mom’s Night Out… and Son of God… and Left Behind… and – well, I stopped myself before seeing Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas.
Or was that Divine Intervention?
While Do You Believe? isn’t as bad any of the above mentioned films, it’s a much more frustrating film because writers Cary Solomon and Chuck Konzelman (both of whom wrote God’s Not Dead) present us with characters that show signs of depth, only to end up just skimming their surface and cramming the remainder of the film with more characters that aren’t the slightest bit interesting, generic Sunday school messages and a carbon copy third-act of God’s Not Dead.
Unlike many of the other films out of the Pure Flix canon, Do You Believe? has a fairly recognizable cast that includes Oscar winner Mira Sorvino, Sean Astin (the go-to guy nowadays for these films), Cybill Shepherd, Ted McGinley, Alexa PenaVega, Delroy Lindo and Lee Majors, aka the six million dollar man. Most of the performances are solid, particularly from Sorvino and a surprisingly heartfelt turn from Brian Bosworth (Bo Jackson’s favorite NFL linebacker).
And just when I think I’m about to be surprised with a faith-based film that for once feels grounded and real, I’m once again let down by the same old tricks from Pure Flix. It’s not that director Jonathan M. Gunn, Solomon and Konzelman are juggling way too many characters (they’ve been advertising this film as the “faith-based version of Crash“); it’s that they’re juggling characters of which five of the twelve are worth caring about and the rest are throwaway caricatures. Sorvino and Bosworth share a nice rapport together as an unemployed single mom trying to raise her daughter and reformed convict who regrets failing his own daughter (a brief backstory that could’ve been delved into more, but is unfortunately hardly touched on), respectively. Alexa PenaVega and Joseph Julian Soria are both damaged souls who feel connected by that fact; she’s a suicidal patient whose family has abandoned her and he’s a returning vet who suffers from PTSD. And Ted McGinley is a pastor who preaches faith without action being dead, yet gives the impression he doesn’t quite believe it himself until finally faced with a traumatizing incident that challenges his own faith.
When the film centers on that core group, I gotta admit, I was liking it, and it would’ve benefited the film had Gunn focused on their stories and tossed out the seven filler threads, but what ends up happening is the more forgettable characters take time and depth away from the five that show promise.
Yeah, I know. Twelve’s the magic number in the Bible – twelve sons of Jacob, twelve spies sent to the Promised Land, and twelve disciples.
So I guess I should blame Saint Peter and the other eleven for inspiring the overcrowding.
As for the message, it’s well-meaning, but nothing that the target crowd hasn’t heard before. Basically, it boils down to “talk is cheap and actions speak louder than words”. It’s a noble message that could’ve been written for all audiences instead of just preaching to the choir, but Solomon and Konzelman just fall back on the latter, which means more cardboard, stereotype characters, and preachy dialogue that’s delivered like stiff sermons between the characters more than genuine conversations. Sure, it’s not as preachy as God’s Not Dead, but that’s sorta like catching your wife tonguing another man, and thinking at least she’s not sleeping with him.
Where the film begins to lose any credibility it may have had is when the writers follow up their one-dimensional atheist professor from God’s Not Dead with another pair of horribly written characters in Sean Astin’s non-believing doctor (Named Thomas for all his skepticism… Hardy-har-har-har! How clever!) and his also non-believing, opportunistic attorney wife playing by Andrea Logan White (who’s so annoyingly petty I had her pegged to be the one who gets the big “conversion moment” the second she opened her mouth). Astin’s delivered some fine performances before in his career, but his character is excruciatingly groan-worthy. He sees a family praying for their meal at a restaurant and throws a fit about how God always gets credit from his patients and that he should receive credit. When a patient has a miraculous recovery, he irritably tells his nurse and the patient’s friend that there’s no such thing as miracles.
They should’ve just named him Dr. Asshat.
Come the third-act, the film falls apart as it repeats the same climactic scenario that we saw in God’s Not Dead with a car accident in the rain (if it happens once more in a third film, I’m gonna assume Solomon and Konzelman have a fetish). People’s lives are saved in heroic fashion and everything gets wrapped up tidier than normal. Then it finally loses it’s grip on reality when Bosworth’s character experiences the aforementioned miraculous deathbed recovery (well, not so much a recovery but a full blown resurrection since he was dead for ten minutes) that’s nothing more than a contrived means of pushing its message.
You know, this entire film could’ve salvaged itself if, when J.D. and Teri’s car is dangling off a bridge, Lee Majors sprung out of his totaled car like Steve Austin.
Do You Believe? features a more talented and recognizable cast than the usual offerings from Pure Flix, and performances from Mira Sorvino, Brian Bosworth and Alexa PenaVega are able to squeak in a little bit of heart when the film isn’t preoccupied with being obnoxiously on the nose. Yet for all that works here, the filmmakers squander the talent they have at hand by forcing out another manipulative, cookie cutter third-act and crowding the film with too many characters, the least of which serve as a distraction to the ones that work.
I give Do You Believe? a C- (★★).
Review source: http://silverscreenfanatic.com/2015/03/20/do-you-believe/