Faith Based


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Faith Based
"Faith Based is a wake-up call from a critical friend."

What does the term 'Christian film' mean to you? There are all sorts of films out there with Christian themes, from bombastic epics like The Ten Commandments to very personal pieces like the recent Corpus Christi, yet these are not usually what's implied in discussions of Christian film as a genre. Instead, the term is generally used to refer to films made by modern Evangelicals, mostly in the US. They're often said to have originated with Mel Gibson's The Passion Of The Christ, but suffice it to say that they rarely achieve that quality. "They don't have to be bad," as one potential funder advises here, "but they don't have to be good either."

As for being faith based, that's arguably true of every film, in that faith in something is a requirement of successfully making it through the production process. And sometimes - notoriously - filmmakers depend more on faith than they should.

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One thing that one can be pretty sure of with a Christian film is that it will make money - like Christian rock, the genre has a captive audience. And that's what appeals to would-be producer Luke (played by Luke Barnett, who also wrote the script) in this gentle satire on the industry. A man who has a history of failed attempts to make money - not least because he buys into other people's dodgy pyramid schemes - he sees easily secured funds and eager viewers as the perfect combination, even though he's no especially religious and he doesn't have any existing film-making skills. How hard can it be?

From it's earliest days, Faith Based as enjoyed the sort of publicity money can't buy. Fox News and Breibart were condemning it for 'Christian-bashing' before anybody had had a chance to see it. As it happens, that's wildly off the mark. There's plenty of sympathy shown to Christians here - director Vincent Masciale is one himself. The principal object of the comedy is, rather, precisely the lack of informed critical judgement those angry newscasters showed. If there's one persistent problem with Christian films, it's that they rarely display the slightest hint of self awareness. Faith Based is a wake-up call from a critical friend. If the people making those films are willing to give it some real consideration, their output could improve considerably.

In addition to this, the film has familiar points to make about over-enthusiastic amateurs whose ambitions far outstrip their capacity for hard work, and about the ease with which cast and crew members can find themselves exploited even in situations where nobody intends any harm. It also has similarities to the genre it's satirising in its focus on the importance of friendship, family, and paying attention to the needs of others. Part of this concerns Luke's relationship with best friend Tanner (Tanner Thomason), who decides to give the religious life a try and, for a while, finds a real sense of community within it, though some of his fellow adherents prove to be less straightforward in their commitment to living by what they preach that he might have expected. Luke also has to deal with never-resolved issues around his childhood and his adoptive father (Lance Reddick), who happens to be a pastor.

With a measure of slapstick humour and general silliness to balance out the more serious themes, Faith Based has some nicely observed dialogue and, though it's perhaps a little overlong, generally ambles along at the right pace to let viewers engage fully with the material. It's a sweet-natured dig at a genre that need to reflect more, and some Evangelical Christians will be surprised by how much they enjoy it, even if it doesn't star Kevin Sorbo.

Reviewed on: 14 Apr 2020
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Faith Based packshot
When two idiot friends realise all 'faith based' films make buckets of cash, they set out on a mission to make one of their own.

Director: Vincent Masciale

Writer: Luke Barnett

Starring: Luke Barnett, Tanner Thomason, Lance Reddick, Jason Alexander, Margaret Cho, David Koechner

Year: 2020

Runtime: 92 minutes

Country: US


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