Hitting theaters March 13-15 as a Fathom Event, the faith-based Church People has some very familiar faces but took me to a world that I, as a Catholic, don’t really understand.
With a list of producers that includes actors Stephen Baldwin and Beverly Mitchell, and MyPillow.com entrepreneur Mike Lindell (Lindell and his pillow both make cameos), Church People focuses on Guy (Thor Ramsey), a very popular Evangelical youth pastor, managed by a money-minded agent (Donald Faison), who’s becoming dissatisfied with the theatrical side of preaching to the kids.
When his rainbow-shirted, entrepreneurial pastor (Michael Monks) decides that a live crucifixion would be just the thing to liven up the room on Good Friday, Guy decides he’s had enough. But the surprise appearances of two women connected to his past complicate an already fraught situation.
Also starring are Stephen Baldwin, Joey Fatone, Isabella Hoffman and Chynna Phillips.
(There is a reference to live crucifixions happening in the Philippines and Mexico. I haven’t heard of it happening in Mexico — where there are dramatic Passion Plays— but it does happen in the Philippines. Luckily, the word Catholic isn’t mentioned, since these are folk customs and roundly condemned by the Church.)
The basic premise of the movie is that you don’t need all the bells and whistles and that preaching the Gospel should be enough. There’s an irony in presenting this idea in a scripted comedy film, but it’s all quite earnest.
Church People has some clever lines and funny scenes in the script by Ramsey, Bob Saenz and Wes Halula, and the final Good Friday scene is affecting. But a big twist in the life of the main character is handled so matter-of-factly that it might as well have been somebody reading the back of a cereal box.
Emotion never threatens to overwhelm anybody, and ultimately, aside from the closing scene, it has all the heft of cotton candy. Everyone has a brief cathartic religious moment and, we presume, lives happily ever after.
As a Catholic, the entire world of megachurch Evangelicalism and high-energy musical worship services is a mystery. The only time I’ve worshiped in an amphitheater was at a Mass during the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, complete with a band, lights and liturgical dancing. I know huge Masses can be done beautifully — major cathedrals around the world and the Vatican do it all the time — but this was … no, thank you.
While I love going to a concert as much as the next person, the notion of megachurch worship is utterly unappealing.
So, I commend Church People for making a stab at critiquing it, but I doubt it will make a whisker of difference to the megapastors and their thriving businesses.
Click here to find out where to get tickets for Church People.
Image: Church People, LLC.
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