Review: Moms’ Night Out (dir. Jon & Andrew Erwin, 2014)

I saw Moms’ Night Out over a week ago and have been meaning to say something about it ever since, but until now I’ve had to juggle a couple of work assignments as well as the usual distractions that come with being a stay-at-home dad — and that’s kind of fitting, given that the film’s main character is a stay-at-home parent who also has a blog of her own.

So I can kind of relate to Allyson (Sarah Drew), the film’s protagonist. When, say, her kids and the messes they make drive her nuts, but she finds that she just can’t bear to paint over the stick-figure portraits that the kids have drawn on the wall, I know exactly what she’s going through.

And yet, I’m also quite conscious of the fact that this movie wasn’t exactly made for people like me. It’s a movie about moms, and it quite consciously extols the virtues of motherhood while portraying dads as the kind of people who are easily panicked and overwhelmed when someone asks them to “babysit” their own kids for a few hours.

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Flashback: The films made by Alex & Stephen Kendrick

In my review of God’s Not Dead, I made a point of contrasting the “Christian ghetto” approach of that film with the more open-minded “Christian niche” approach of the films made by Alex and Stephen Kendrick (Flywheel, Facing the Giants, Fireproof and Courageous).

So I figured it might be good to round up the various articles I have written about the Kendricks and their films; the list includes two op-ed pieces, a review, and several interviews with the filmmakers and their collaborators.

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Review: God’s Not Dead (dir. Harold Cronk, 2014)

Warning: This review will discuss several major spoilers, including the ending.

Christian films have a bad reputation, and it is often quite justified. But as one who has been involved with church-drama ministries and the like, I have never been able to dismiss the genre entirely. And that’s why I have made a point of trying to look for the positive elements in films like, say, the ones produced by the Kendrick brothers (Facing the Giants, Fireproof, Courageous).

As I have argued before, there is nothing wrong with a Christian “niche”. Christians, like other groups of people, have special needs and interests, and sometimes they require special kinds of films that people outside our community won’t “get”.

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Review: Fireproof (dir. Alex Kendrick, 2008)

Two years ago, there was a big controversy when Facing the Giants, an ultra-low-budget movie produced by a church in the Bible Belt, was rated PG, allegedly for its spiritual content. Pundits and politicians railed against the MPAA and its ratings board for its perceived bias against religious themes, and moviegoers rallied to the film’s defense at the box office, making it one of the most successful Christian movies of all time. But as the debate over the movie’s rating subsided, another controversy emerged. Some Christians praised the film for its positive, family-friendly values, while others condemned it as bad art, a bad story badly told that would only encourage the worst artistic instincts of the evangelicals who saw it.

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Interview: Kirk Cameron

Kirk Cameron may be best known as a former teen idol and as one of the stars of the 1980s sitcom Growing Pains. But over the past decade, he has been cultivating another, very different fan base, as the star of several Christian movies — including the Left Behind series and Miracle of the Cards — and as an evangelist with The Way of the Master, a ministry he shares with Ray Comfort.

Cameron, who turns 38 in October, became a Christian while still in his teens, and he has been married to the actress Chelsea Noble — who he met when she guest-starred on Growing Pains — since 1991. He recently published a book about his life and career, called Still Growing: An Autobiography (Regal).

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The Church Behind Fireproof / How a Baptist church in Georgia became a movie-making mecca

For several years the members of Sherwood Baptist Church have had a vision: “To touch the world from Albany, Georgia.”

And thanks to the power of mass media, this church of about 3,000 members — located in a city of only 80,000 or so — has been able to do just that.

Through its media ministry, the church has already produced two feature-length films with an all-volunteer cast and a mostly-volunteer crew. Given their incredibly low budgets, both films — especially Facing the Giants — have been enormously successful, in theaters and on DVD. Both films have also been distributed to over 50 countries around the world in a dozen subtitled languages.

Now the church is putting the finishing touches on its third film, Fireproof, which opens on September 26. This time the folks at Sherwood are working with a budget of $500,000 — still peanuts by Hollywood standards, but five times the budget of Giants — and they even have a professional Hollywood actor, Kirk Cameron of Growing Pains and Left Behind fame, in the lead role as a firefighter whose marriage is in trouble.

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