Alex and Stephen Kendrick, darlings of the Christian film industry, are back in theaters today with War Room, their fifth film overall and their first since 2011’s Courageous. War Room is produced by Provident, but it’s being distributed by TriStar, which shows that they’ve come far—and that commercial studios are certainly willing to court Christian viewers.
A few years ago, a studio executive told me that the primary place in which the typical Christian film suffers, compared to its mainstream peers, is in the writing. Many Christian productions are willing to hire experienced, professional directors; even when they’re shot by self-taught cinematographers, the result is usually at least adequate. Christian productions now attract familiar stars: Robert Duvall in Seven Days in Utopia; Sean Astin in Mom’s Night Out; Cybill Shepard in Do You Believe?
But when it comes to screenplay writing, the genre seems stuck in a rut. It’s more committed to heavy-handed providential plotting than imaginative explorations of character or setting.
War Room follows the increasingly dreary pattern familiar to anyone who has seen more than a handful of Christian films. Karen Abercrombie and Priscilla Shirer are easy to like as a spiritually mature senior on the one hand and a beleaguered housewife on the other whom the older woman teaches to pray. T. C. Stallings plays a flatter character: Tony, the not-yet philandering but not exactly faithful husband to Shirer’s Elizabeth. The women deliver lines like “Devil, you just got your butt kicked!” and “Go back to hell where you belong, and leave my family alone!” with the requisite earnestness to make viewers believe ...1
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Lazy Writing, Cheap Restoration
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