A new movie studio, Epiphany Films, has set out to produce films that glorify good spiritual values. This week, its first film has arrived. Churches and many Christian film critics are raving about Joshua. The film is based on the novel by Fr. Joseph F. Girzone, a Catholic priest who has written a popular series of novels. But reviews from the mainstream press raise questions of whether the filmmakers' tactics will work with an unchurched audience.

The movie is set in a small town that is visited by a charismatic stranger (Tony Goldwyn) who contributes to the rebuilding of a church. His contributions include healing a blind woman, arguing with religious leaders, and even raising the dead. This greatly dismays a local Catholic priest (Amadeus's F. Murray Abraham), who tries to get the church to denounce him. The drama is underlined by a soundtrack that features popular contemporary Christian music stars Michael W. Smith, Nicole C. Mullen, Point of Grace, Third Day, and Jaci Velasquez.

Hollywood Jesus offers a link to Epiphany Films' "leadership guide" for those who want to lead a discussion after viewing the film.

Michael Elliott (Movie Parables) says, "Director Jon Purdy, while not giving us a stellar example of cinematic artistry, still succeeds because he remains true to the film's simple and yet poignant message: God is love and we need more love in our lives." Similarly, Dick Rolfe (Dove) calls it "enchanting … spiritual but not preachy, provocative without being gross, entertaining without taking the low road that so many filmmakers feel compelled to travel."

"The story touches on many of the ... issues presented in the Gospels," says Bob Smithouser (Focus on the Family). "Joshua plays like an extended episode of TV's Touched ...

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