God’s Club: The Mega-Review

God’s Club: The Mega-Review August 21, 2016

I just noticed a movie pop up on my Netflix thing that sounded so ludicrous that I had to run a review on it as soon as I could. The movie is God’s Club, and if you needed something extra-baffling and extra-ridiculous to enjoy a weekend with, settle back with me and enjoy one of the worst Christian movies to come out lately!

And in case it isn’t very clear that we’ll be discussing this movie in great detail today: HERE THERE BE SPOILERS!

It just plunges right in, so we will too!
It just plunges right in.

The Setup.

The expectation: I’m fully expecting to find the Christians here depicted as saints, non-believers to be evil bastards, and the world to work exactly the way that fundagelicals imagine it does, with prayers working, Christians always winning in the end, and non-believers getting the punishment that fundagelicals imagine is coming to them.

The hooch: It seems strangely fitting to just raid the liquor cabinet. Let’s head on over there, shall we? Hm, oh, the key… Bumble kept unlocking and opening the doors of the cabinet so I had to hide the keys. Ah! here we are. 

Found a bit of that blackberry brandy from last year when we did Left Behind. Oh and I’ll grab some of those peppermint patties I just made. When we run out of the brandy then there’s a nice cold strawberry-banana daiquiri, except instead of banana I used more vodka, so I guess it’s not much of a strawberry-banana daiquiri.

The glass: A giveaway travel cup from a walk/run Mr. Captain did a couple of years ago.

The cast: As follows–

Jared Cohn is the director responsible for the piece of shit that we will be using as our reason for getting blitzed today. I notice he acted in Sharknado: Heart of Sharkness (note: actual subtitle) and a bunch of really, really, really awful movies featuring zombies, half-naked young women, and serial killers. He’s directed some equally loathsome movies: Underground Lizard PeopleDeath PoolHulk Blood Tapes, and now, God’s Club. I am forced to assume that he got the job of directing this turkey because he couldn’t physically fight back hard enough to avoid getting dropped into the folding chair.

The writer, John Chadwell, clearly flirted with the idea of a Hollywood career back in 1988, with a small role in a mini-series and a silly alien-attack type of movie screenplay right around the same time, then absolutely nothing until God’s Club. I notice that on his blog he has a habit of reprinting in whole (without linking and often without attribution) all reviews of this movie. I somehow doubt he’ll want to steal this one.

The Unequally Yoked Club: He’s in Love with a Church Girl.
The Unequally Yoked Club: He’s in Love with a Church Girl.

Stephen Baldwin, sporting his usual weird squinty “I’m soooo serious” pout, plays our Christian hero. Oh my god. Did I seriously just sign on to watch this delusional weirdo pouting and squinting at me for 90 solid minutes?!? MORE BOOZE MUST HAVE MORE BOOZE.

That’s better.

Anyway, Stephen Baldwin (brother of the far more entertaining Alec Baldwin!) is a diehard Trump supporter and self-professed “Jesus Freak” who is totally positive that the reason he doesn’t get starring roles in non-fundagelical movies is that his fervent Christian faith has spooked producers and directors. (He’s also a tax evader and contract breaker as well as being preachy and tedious, but who’s counting?) If you remember our review of I’m in Love with a Church Girl, he was one of the cops in that movie. About the only people who’ll pay him money these days for his “talents” are fundagelicals; they’ll always love someone who tells them what they want to hear.

I will say one thing, though, about his previous work. Let the Lion Roar sounds simply amazing. This numnuts as Jerome, playing across Kevin Sorbo as Calvin, John “Bo Duke” Schneider as Hilary, Bishop of Poitiers, and a storyline described as “the greatest and darkest deceptions of our time – the conspiracy to cover up the Church’s true identity”? There’s no way in the world that this wouldn’t be an amazing exhibit for any Bad Movie Night. But here we are.

Lorenzo Lamas is in this too. If you’re a diehard fan of the old movie Grease, then you might recognize that name; he was the jock football player that Sandy dates while rebounding from her summer fling with Danny. He’s been in a lot of things over the years, none terribly notable. One of his big accomplishments was a spot in Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! (note: again, that’s the actual subtitle of the movie). That’s probably how he fell in with this movie’s creators. In recent years he’s apparently heading into fundagelical movie-land, a sure indication that his career is circling the drain.

Well this is a super-promising setup all the way around.

Diving In.

The movie opens very directly. A super-pretty middle-aged woman and her daughter are puttering around in the kitchen, clearly getting ready for some event or other. Her dumpy husband (Baldwin) comes in and they have an argument because he wants to stay home for this meeting she’s got, and she says she needs him to be there to support her. She bribes him with dessert, he pouts and squints, and reluctantly he agrees to go. We are one minute into this movie and already I am sick of this guy’s face. I mean sick of it. But I need that daughter’s tank top like burning.

The next scene opens with a condescending asshole explaining that religious clubs shouldn’t be given community resources because they have “no place in our public school district.” (We’ll ignore that they’re not really getting community resources beyond maybe a teacher sponsorship and meeting space–because this movie definitely does.) The woman apparently is fighting for RELIGIOUS LIBERTY and wants to know why her religious club is getting “singled out.” Yay.

The asshole declares that not only does the club not have any place in public education, but that it’s offensive to him personally. You know, exactly like fundagelicals get super-offended when they are simply reminded that atheists exist.

The heroine responds with such a well-worn Christian canard that I’m surprised she could shape the consonants enough to be understood: “Why? We promote peace, love, and tolerance!”

Really.

A number of parents object to the club, saying it sure ain’t their club, and the heroine bursts out, “It’s not my club either! It’s GOD’S CLUB!” (CinemaSins would say here: roll credits!) But it’s not her god’s club, is it? It’s a little self-congratulatory club for kids who want to play at being religious, and for adults to prey upon them with an extra dose of indoctrination before they fully escape adult oversight.

The thing is, there are actual guidelines for extracurricular clubs. As long as the group fits into those guidelines, then that’s all educators and administrators should care about. It doesn’t matter if the parents like it or lump it or even openly want the club to exist; all that should matter is whether or not it follows the rules for inclusion. If it doesn’t, then it is out. So when one really obnoxious lady declares, “Billy will not be going,” I have to wonder why she even feels the need to say something like that. (Did she check with “Billy”? Or is she just declaring that?) This is her reaction after being told that everyone’s entitled to their own opinion:

god's club opinion lady
WELL GYAHHH!

I could seriously make the whole post about this actress’ depiction of a Straw Atheist. It’s that glorious. She hit every single stereotype of the Godless Atheist Who Hates Jesus and Freedom. Maybe later.

god's club opinion lady 2
GYAHH FOR REAL, UH! (Btw, her husband here later gets his ass kicked. They’re also the parents of one of the Mean Girls. Just remember that for later.)

I wish Christians could understand that non-believers know that they hate us.

By the way, throughout this review I’m assuming that these hostile parents are atheists, but the movie never really makes that clear. All we know is that they are not at all Christian (or any other religion–as one parent obliquely implies), and that they really don’t like Christianity. So though I may refer to them as atheists, please bear in mind that the movie refuses to say either way what they are. They definitely fit a fundagelical’s idea of atheists, is all I can really say.

After the hero squints and pouts and tells them to all calm down, they do. The hero and heroine power couple leaves. As they drive home, she talks about how she just doesn’t understand how people can be so meeeeeean. They talk about her “career” and apparently this “Bible club” (that’s what they call it–not “God’s club”) is part of her career somehow. He says it’s just not his “thing,” but she connects the club to their daughter, who she fears will end up pregnant one day because she listens to secular music and doesn’t seem all that interested in religion. Ah, okay, they’re both teachers, and she sees religious leadership as part of her moral duties as a teacher. The problem here is that she really doesn’t understand what teaching is.

Oh, and we’re up to 7 pout-and-squints so far.

I seriously hate this guy so much right now.
I seriously hate this guy so much right now.

He distracts her with a leer and declaration of love, and as they lean together to kiss, they get into an accident.

Seriously.

This is that kind of movie.

He tries to move her out of the wreck, which by the way you shouldn’t ever do. I have no idea where the other car is in this wreck. It sounded like they were hit by an oncoming car, but now it looks like a one-car accident. She dies very theatrically while he pleads with her to live and even offers to pray with her–but it’s too late.

Life Goes On.

A few months later, we come in to the hero’s house to see his daughter Rebecca trying hard to draw her dad out of his shell. He isn’t interested. She says she’s hurt that he’s not there for her. I do have to say I like how their house is decorated. This movie makes me want to play the Sims. It’s a little heavy on the mid-aughts’ obsession with neutrals-on-white, but they do it pretty well.

Corbin Bernsen, who is famous and way better than this awful movie (I don’t think I have ever disliked a performance of his), is apparently the school principal or a fellow teacher or something. He is Squinty’s cool friend. Eventually he talks Squinty into returning from bereavement leave. A montage ensues of Squinty shaving, ironing his school clothes, and getting back into teaching at “Echo Grove High School” (the movie uses the exact same establishing shot of the school, and it’s a very sad and neglected corner with broken cement and poorly-maintained plants; I really don’t know if the filmmakers are trying to make some snide comment about godless atheists’ poor stewardship or something, since the idea that Echo Grove is a godless atheist paradise is something the movie hammers at constantly). Squinty starts his first day back with “a moment of silence” in honor of his wife, and one student leaves in a snit. Meanwhile, some Mean Girls call Rebecca and her friend names. But that doesn’t bother the daughter because, as she sees it, they will be punished one day–and she gloats about it.

She later asks her dad if her mom was scared to die and recites the dead lady’s favorite Bible verse. He decides that his wife’s brutal, painful, terrifying, violent death actually means his god is faithful. And he and his daughter set up their “Bible Club” in her memory.

Nobody wants to join it though. Some nasty atheist teens show up to mess with the Christians, as atheist teens do in this movie’s world. And a long-haired cute boy catches the daughter’s eye. Clearly this is our love interest, though he’s dating or was recently dating someone named ‘Trudy” who would not like him talking to her. I guess she was one of the Mean Girls. The scene of Rebecca and the boy (whose name is Vic) navigating the world of high-school politics is really painful.

In the next scene, Lorenzo Lamas turns out to be the cute boy’s dad–and one of the nasty atheists from the meeting scene. Vic’s family and Squinty’s family (and the Mean Girls and their parents) show up at the one burger joint that apparently everyone in town patronizes. Vic’s dad ridicules the bereaved widower for having a moment of silence and declares that religion should only be done in private. Squinty tells Vic’s dad in turn that the Bible Club launches in two days and reminds him that nobody’s forced to attend. Vic’s dad leaves with his son.

Oh, and Vic’s dad turns out to be a lawyer. One of the other atheist parents visits his office to talk about the legality of the Bible Club in the next scene, while Vic lounges on a couch nearby. His dad admits that the law’s on Squinty’s side here, but they decide to “watch him like a hawk” to find anything they can use against the club. They’ll need to “get creative” to “bring [the Christians] down.” The camera zeroes in on Vic, who looks concerned and nervous at this nefarious talk.

Maybe they shouldn't have done their fiendish plotting with the kid in there.
Maybe they shouldn’t have done their fiendish plotting with the kid in there. (I actually like this shot. Very film noir.)

This really is what Christians think non-Christians are like, let me remind y’all. 

(Hey you know what has had me up late reading the last couple nights? This scandal that erupted last year in the world of artisan chocolate. Fascinating stuff. Way more interesting than this movie.)

After a meeting with another school official (the one black cast member I’ve seen so far), who reminds him that attendance must be voluntary, the club has its first meeting. The two hostile atheists give him shit on the first meeting and remind him that there are no churches in Echo Grove.

WTF? NO CHURCHES?

School meetings dominated by atheists?

A small-town school administrator who is deeply committed to the separation of church and state?

Where the fuck is this mythical Shangri-La and how the fuck do I find it?

In fact, the atheists are completely ignorant of the Bible and Christian theology. Again, I wonder where this mythical place is where atheists are this ignorant of Christianity. Even teenage atheists know more than this. But Christians really think that non-believers are totally in the dark about their religion. The meeting devolves rapidly into a discussion of zombie movies.

Afterward, Rebecca has a running date with Vic, who is on some kind of medication (Prozac, it turns out). He starts taking his medication, then spits it out and throws out the bottle, and leaves for his date.

FUCK YOU.
Dear Movie: FUCK YOU. Cordially &etc, Captain Fucking Cassidy

FUCK YOU, MOVIE, FUCK YOU, FUCK YOU. FUCK YOU.

THIS MOVIE CAN OFFICIALLY FUCK RIGHT OFF.

Free of his psychoactive medication, Vic goes out running with the daughter and has a fabulous time even though she Christian-zones him afterward by telling him that she refuses to date him because he’s not Christian. He declares that he’s totally attracted to “the glow in [her] eyes,” which she tells him is her faith in Jesus. He confesses that he gets really depressed and angry sometimes, even suicidal, then yells at her when she presses him for details. His abusive-sounding dad shows up to snatch him from his running date at that point (no, the movie never explains how the dad knew Vic was there).

The dad is totally offended that his son is with the Christian girl and angry that Vic skipped a psychiatrist’s appointment. He tries to tell Vic to stop associating with Rebecca. (You know, like fundagelical parents do to their kids. But in fundagelical-land, their mythology says it’s the mean ole atheists who try to restrict who their kids talk to.)

Apparently at one point he hospitalized his son or put him into a treatment center or something against his will, and the son is still pretty pissed about it. (You know, like fundagelicals do to their kids. But their mythology says this is something cruel and evil that evil atheists do to their kids because they don’t have Jesus telling them how to parent effectively.)

Rebecca, as far as we know, does not warn any adult in her life about the credible threat of suicide she’s received from Vic. The movie drops in suicide-as-a-plot-point and then just lets it wiffle up into the ether, from whence it shall be summoned again when needed.

The Next Meeting.

Squinty opens the next Bible Club meeting asking the two atheist kids exactly the same question he did on the first meeting: whether or not their parents approve of their presence. And they answer exactly the same way they did on the first meeting: that their parents don’t really care what they do. (Because fundagelicals think this is how non-Christian parents feel about their offspring.) It’s like the filmmakers totally forgot that this dialogue already happened. Squinty doesn’t care this second time any more than he did the first time; he’s like “Oh. Okay.” And the movie forgets all about the matter. He gives the kids in the club t-shirts with the Goatse-esque logo on it. He says “Cool, right?” about the shirts.

Mr. Captain, wafting through the room while fetching supplies for a tactical mission against Bumble: “Not cool. Ever.”

I don’t think the shirts show up anywhere in the movie afterward–maybe some of the kids are wearing their shirts during the last scene, but they aren’t narratively important at all.

Squinty also gives them each a graphic-novel style of Bible (this one, I think), because teachers totally can afford that sort of bulk purchase, and even the atheist kids love it. One girl who hasn’t talked until now thanks him because she’s never ever had a Bible of her very own before. She smiles and clutches it to her chest like it’s a signed photo of a One Direction star. (Who are all these non-fundagelical kids who desperately wanted to join a Bible Club and think it’s this wonderful to get their very own Bibles? What world is this where it’s so hard to get a Bible that any interested party can’t get six zillion of them by dinnertime with next to no effort?)

Later, Squinty’s cool friend’s car is broken down and Squinty is grimly telling him, “I told you to buy American.”

TAKE THAT, YOU FOREIGN-AUTO-BUYING HEATHENS! REAL MURRRKANS BUY MURRRKAN CARS!

One of the mean ole atheist parents screams at him from his own passing car and pulls in to start some shit. His kid is one of the two atheist kids in the Bible Club, and he’s furious that Squinty told his kid that his parents were going to Hell, which he kinda did by singling out Bible verses about exactly that.

The blonde obnoxious lady is apparently the mother of the kid and she’s outraged. She asks him, “What kind of Christian are you, telling my kid about sinning?”

Um, he’s an American fundagelical Christian? In what world is an atheist confused about why a fundagelical Christian would talk about sinning?

The husband asks Squinty where his god was the night his wife died.

Mr. Captain, having lost his latest skirmish with Bumble and about to begin a new one: “Nobody has ever acted like that.”

Anyway, apparently that was the wrong thing for the atheist guy to say.

Squinty literally hands his Bible to the cool friend and then gut-punches the asshole dad. 

For real.

Right in the gut.

Obviously, this is a very Christian response.
Obviously, this is a very Christian response. I love the “dammit, I told you” grimace on the cool friend though.

The men end up in a serious scuffle, ending with Squinty pushing the atheist dad up against a wooden fence. The atheist says he’ll totally GET him, and the principal dude tries to shame the atheist for being a twit.

The jilted Mean Girl, her friend, and Vic break into Squinty’s classroom and vandalize the place and destroy his club posters and stuff. They fucking destroy the classroom.

You know, like Christian kids do to non-Christians all the time.

It’s Okay If You’re a Christian.

The next morning, Squinty and the black lady survey the damage, and she tells him that he’s got a meeting with some board members. Meanwhile, the Mean Girls shove Squinty’s daughter around on the school bus and threaten her.

In the meeting, the cool friend, the black lady who I thought was the principal, and the angry atheist parents confront Squinty over his fistfight the previous night. Squinty tries to apologize with a particularly sad squint-pout, and his cool friend tries to say that he was totally provoked because in his eyes, that totally makes violence an acceptable avenue.

I’d like to take this moment to mention again that this movie is aimed at Christians and that its hero is meant to be the everyman Christian hero that they’re supposed to empathize with and cheer for.

That afternoon, one of the Mean Girls fights Rebecca, the daughter. It’s a pretty mild scuffle, but Rebecca does something that’s actually really cool: after doing the requisite pushing-around, she puts her hands behind her head and lets the Mean Girl kick the shit out of her. All she does is try to defend herself against the worst of the Mean Girl’s attack.

Rebecca, showing Christian kids how to fight.
Rebecca, showing Christian kids how to fight. A pity she kinda spoiled the effect earlier by shoving the other girl a couple times.

It ends fairly quickly, and a few kids get photos of the scuffle on their smartphones (one kid exclaims, “I love this school!” as he films them). The more obnoxious of the two atheist kids from the Bible Club (you can tell he’s meant to be the more obnoxious one because he wears hipster eyeglasses) rushes into Squinty’s meeting to get help–he’s starting to become a real boy, isn’t that cute?

In the black lady’s office (I really have no idea what her role is here), Rebecca refuses to apologize and gets suspended. Squinty’s boss very correctly informs Squinty that he’s out of control and so is his daughter; she’s not very impressed with their religiosity at all, as she shouldn’t be. She tells him that the Bible Club is finished, and that he’s just lucky she isn’t “asking for [his] resignation.” (I guess unions don’t exist in this mythological Shangri-La.) I just wonder why nobody has shown her all those photos and videos of the fight to show that Rebecca didn’t do much but defend herself, and I don’t think extracurricular clubs work the way she’s implying they do.

The Mean Girls talk about how mad they are about the fight between the adults earlier, and how even madder they are that Rebecca is “stealing” the one girl’s boyfriend. They decide to “teach [those poor little Christians] a lesson.”

The dad’s about to get fired, the daughter got suspended after a fight, the villains are going to do something terrible, and the club is about to be disbanded. I suppose this is the movie’s idea of a serious conflict; we’re about a half hour from the end, so something dreadful has to happen.

Stand Back! She Has a Bible and She’s Not Afraid to Use It!

But Rebecca has a plan. Like her mother did once, she declares that she and her dad will “go to the Bible” for advice. She opens up to Romans 8:28 (“all things work together for good to them that love God“) and reads with this very earnest, amazed, sincere look on her face (oh wow, I’ve got a photo of myself with the same exact expression at her age reading a Bible! Do fundagelicals teach kids that look in Sunday School?). One can almost forget that her dad gut-punched someone yesterday.

Awww...
Awww… Actually this is kinda sweet in a way. She really has no idea what reality is, and it’s going to hit her so hard in a couple of years. But for now, she really thinks the Bible is a great instruction manual for life.

His reaction is to squint and pout at her.

We're up to 23 squinty pouts so far in this movie.
We’re up to 23 squinty pouts so far. I’m keeping track.

The black lady comes to visit to tell him that he’ll have a chance next week to “say his piece” in some big board meeting with the mean ole atheist parents.(Could she not have just called him or emailed him, or told him the next day at school?) One of the atheists asked her to please convey a Bible quote about forgiveness of trespasses or something. She tells Squinty that “you reached him,” and she includes herself in that assessment as well.

Possibly the Worst Therapist on Earth.

In the next scene, Vic is talking to his therapist about his new love interest. The actor playing Vic is cute in a Lou Diamond Phillips-in-1987 way, and he’s not half-bad in the role; his scenes (and Rebecca’s, overall) are among the most watchable in the movie. When the therapist asks him if the Prozac is helping his depression and violent moods, Vic lets on that he’s not taking them. He asks the therapist if he himself is Christian, and the therapist susses out that the boy is actually worried about the religious difference he’s having with Rebecca.

“Oh,” says the therapist in a totally smug way. “She’s a believer.” (Um, yes, Goofagus. Approximately 2 out of 3 young people still are. This is not a shocking discovery.) He apparently tries to talk Vic out of his interest in Rebecca by informing him, in the most smarmy way possible, that if the two of them date “there’ll be no hanky-panky before marriage.”

Seriously. As far as he’s concerned, sex is the sum total of why mixed-faith relationships and marriages don’t work. That’s it. And he says that line with possibly the most creeptastic expression in the world:

The last thing I'd ever want, as a patient, is to see this expression on my therapist's face.
The last expression I’d ever want to see on my therapist’s face.

This, friends, is what fundagelicals think happens in therapy. And this is what they think non-Christians think of them. In reality, most therapists would be well aware of the statistics behind how abysmally ineffective abstinence-only education is (and how ineffective so-called “purity pledges” are, though Rebecca’s religious enough that she might be one of those outliers who take such pledges seriously; the movie doesn’t talk about whether or not she’s taken one, so we don’t know).

Any decently well-informed person would know that if Vic really just wanted to get his wick wet, his best bet would be a fundagelical girl. Of course, Vic says he doesn’t care about the sex. He presses the therapist to tell him if he believes, and the therapist does the responsible thing and refuses to answer. But then they talk about prayer and the therapist declares that it’s like wishing, except he’d be “talking to God.” He tells Vic to keep reading his Bible Club Bible because it’ll definitely “help,” though with what, or how, or when, he doesn’t reveal.

Getting Out of the Kitchen.

That night, the Mean Girls decide to set fire to Squinty and Rebecca’s house. Seriously. That’s the movie we’re in. They make a Molotov Cocktail and set it on fire.

One tells the other that “if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”

I just sat back and said loudly, “OH MY GOD.” Again.

Christians think that non-Christians will try to kill them if we get too annoyed with them.

The fire alarm goes off (it woke Bumble up too; he was sleeping the sleep of the justified after having defeated Mr. Captain in an epic battle of wits) and Squinty gets Rebecca out of the house. It doesn’t look like too serious of a fire, but still. He puts it out with a fire extinguisher while the authorities show up.

The Mean Girls also vandalized his car with the same phrases used in the classroom vandalism and made a general mess of his property.

Because atheists R dum.

Surveying the damage, Squinty declares, with much squinty pouting, that “we’re done with this town, and everyone in it. I can’t believe your mother even thought there was a spark of humanity here. . . try to be nice, and this is what you get in return.”

Yes, because non-Christians aren’t human. We have no humanity. We literally try to murder anybody who tries to civilize us by teaching us Bible stories. Christians are just “trying to be nice” and this is how we repay them.

Vic tries to talk to Rebecca the next day, and accidentally admits that he helped vandalize her dad’s classroom.

He tries to pull Mark 11:25 on her like the other atheist did, but she just walks away, telling him to leave her alone.  She might be totally gung-ho for Jesus, but not that gung-ho! Later she tells her dad that they can’t quit the Bible Club (because forgiveness might be too much for her, but meaningless and ostentatious shows of religiosity are easy).

Vic arrives home to find his furious dad fondling the full Prozac bottle in his room. Vic says “I’m trying something else” and shows his dad the comic-book Bible–implying he’s trying to pray and do Christian things to magically cure his brain’s chemical imbalances. He tells his dad that Rebecca says prayer works and the Bible is a great guide for life. His dad tries to tell him, correctly, that prayer totally does not work and that the kid needs to take his fucking medication, but Vic just gets angry.

A Brawl. Figuratively Of Course.

Squinty’s principal friend, the cool one,  comes by to encourage him before the big meeting, which he says will be a brawl–a figurative one, of course! (wink-wink)

In an aside, Vic confesses that he’s feeling seriously suicidal to his therapist–and says that praying and reading the Bible isn’t helping him. He admits that his dad has guns in the house, and he’s considered using one on himself. (That means he’s got ideation, means, and a plan–which means serious big red flags. All the red flags. All of them. This is DEFCON 1 to any mandated reporter.) The irresponsible therapist doubles down on the idea that “reading the Bible helps a lot of people.” They argue about the matter and Vic leaves. The therapist calls his dad to discuss the suicide threat. He does not, apparently, take any other action.

I don’t think the people responsible for this shit explosion have ever encountered a real therapist in their lives. Or care that they have gotten so much wrong about therapy.

At the school meeting, Vic’s dad is missing, but Gut Punch Guy demands a vote about whether or not Squinty will keep his job. The black lady resignedly declares that okay, they’ll vote–and the board votes in favor of keeping Squinty on staff. They move on to discussing the Bible Club. It looks like everyone in the audience is a mean ole atheist and they are all outraged about the club.

During his time to speak, Squinty tries to tell the atheist audience members that he just wants the high schoolers under his care to learn morality, because obviously the Bible is the only way they can learn it. He apologizes to the guy he punched and makes a speech about how he hadn’t been a firm enough Christian the night his wife died to pray with her in her dying moments, because that totally matters when evaluating the validity of a religious club at a public school. But a few people nod meaningfully along with him.

He declares, with a squinty pout, that “separation of church and state was never meant to be a separation from GOD.”

He says this. He totally says this. And it’s clear that the movie expects its viewers to agree with it. Because fundagelicals, who let me remind y’all LOVE this movie, believe this blatant misrepresentation heart and soul.  He insists that the Separation Clause is just meant to keep the government from forcing citizens into beliefs (because this is another thing fundagelicals think). Squinty even tries to argue statistics–incorrectly–by claiming that kids who are deeply indoctrinated grow up to be happier and healthier in adulthood.

When the gut-punched atheist objects that the Bible Club hasn’t helped his kids at all, Squinty tells him that he’s forgiven him and his daughter already. The atheist sits down, flabbergasted, even though nothing’s actually changed that fact that his kids are violent, disobedient reprobates. The movie just wants us to believe, as fundagelicals do, that a simple act of forgiveness and an apology has changed everything. Vic’s dad finally shows up to the meeting to yell at Squinty and Rebecca. He tells Squinty that Vic gets violent without his medication, because that’s how fundagelicals think Prozac works; he blames Squinty and Rebecca for Vic’s decision to stop taking the medication, even though it’s very clear that Vic was very conflicted about the drug long before getting interested in Rebecca.

Finally he reveals the buried lede of all buried ledes: the boy has left a suicide note and vanished. His dad’s immediate response after finding it was to go to a school board meeting to confront Squinty about it.

Meanwhile, Vic comes to say goodbye to Rebecca; he’s agitated and clearly Not Doin’ Right. He runs off from her house and she chases after him (conveniently leaving her phone behind), telling him that she’s forgiven him as if that should matter.

The adults can’t get in touch with either kid so they rush off to the park where they know Rebecca likes to hang out with Vic. It’s amazing to me that the parents pretty much know at all times where their kids are likely to be. Is that really a thing? Parents, you tell me.

The Climax.

Rebecca finds Vic in the park. She tries to talk him out of killing himself; I’m not sure how he’s planning to do it–he doesn’t appear to have a gun on him, though his hands stay very ominously in his jacket pockets–but her stated best reason not to commit suicide is that he won’t go to Heaven. (OH MY GOD.) She says “it’s in the Bible,” but it takes some serious gymnastics to arrive at that conclusion. Can I just say that I’m beyond horrified that this movie uses teen suicide as a plot point and tries to make clinical depression into a Jesus-curable illness?

The adults catch up; Vic’s made it to an overpass by now. I guess he’s planning to jump. She has him recite Bible verses, which he does in exactly the same tone as Butters’ accountabillibuddy uses. It doesn’t help. He climbs up on the overpass railing. She demands he pray with her. He refuses but she lowers her head, clasps her hands, and prays hard.

JESUS POWER: ACTIVATED!

He sees her praying, gets down off the railing, and starts praying with her.

The adults see this happening from a distance. With his squintiest pout yet, Squinty tells Vic’s dad that “they’re gonna be okay.” Vic’s dad is obviously very touched by the sight of his son praying.

Man, that dad guy looks so different from his turn in Grease.

Everyone reunites at the overpass. Vic and his dad hug, Squinty and Rebecca hug, yay, this dumpster fire of a movie is almost over, and the camera pans upward to the sky.

The Bible Club meets again later. It’s packed. Vic is appointed its leader. He leads them in Bible reading, while the cool principal and Vic’s dad listen in admiration. Even the two atheist teens look transformed! Wow! And the gut-punched dad is there too! Wow!

Standing Room Only!
Standing Room Only!

Rebecca gazes at Vic adoringly and you just know those two will be telling their kids one day about how they met.

We never find out if Vic is taking his meds again or if the arsonists/vandals got in trouble. As far as the movie knows or cares, everyone turned out happy. In fact, there are a lot of loose plot points floating around here, but we’re not supposed to ask about them. It’s a super-feel-good moment, and the audience–composed of pretty much every person in the movie (maybe except for the Mean Girls, but I don’t care enough to rewind and look for them). Mr. Captain wafted back in from his shower to see Vic’s dad clapping after the Bible reading: “Oh, that’s nice. Beardy McTough Guy looks happy.”

And so did Gut-Punch Guy, who doesn’t seem to mind at all that Vic’s son ditched his daughter for Rebecca. Neither set of atheist parents seem to care much about what was apparently a very long-lived romantic relationship between those teens.

What a weird smile
AWWW, the kid merited a lopsided smile! (NB: such uneven expressions can be big indicators of insincerity, apparently.)

You know how these reviews go, right? We’re going to be talking later about some of the threads in this movie, but for now, I just want a shower and a stiff drink. Again. A lot.

This was such a mess of a movie. Such a mess.


SCORE:

Squint-and-Pout Looks from the Hero: 29
Times I said “OH MY GOD, YOU’RE KIDDING ME:12
Times I lamented the probable state of Corbin Bernsen’s career: 4
Times I wondered where Echo Grove is: 5
Instances of outright fundagelical pandering: Too many
Plot-destroying holes reflecting an alternate reality: 6 at least
Level of fundagelical hatred for non-Christians: Complete
The exact point at which Mr. Captain completely checked out: The last therapist scene
Levels of offensiveness of this movie: ALL OF THEM
Times Bumble won against Mr. Captain tonight: 4 out of 5

Total Score: 1/3-star out of 5

We’ll be coming back to this movie next week, but join us next time for one of the funniest things I’ve seen lately: Bumble vs. Mr. Captain in a battle of wits that I’m pretty sure that the human will ultimately lose. Animal intelligence and a FULL KITTEN UPDATE: next on Roll to Disbelieve.

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