I just got back from watching The Case For Christ. I read the book, ok, read is a strong word; I glanced really hard though the book when it first came out in 1998. It’s a very good reference book for getting the conversation started about the historical evidence for the resurrection of Christ.
If you know me, you know I do not look favorably on Christian movies. I review only the good ones (which are few) because my mother taught me that if I didn’t have anything nice to say, shut your mouth. I hold to that today.
You can guys then, because you are reading this, know I have something favorable to say about the movie. Not only do I have something favorable to say about the movie, but I declare The Case For Christ the third best movie ever made about Christ; behind The Passion of the Christ by Mel Gibson and Silence by Martin Scorsese.
What did I love about this movie so much? Let me count the ways.
First, the movie seems to take place in the late 70’s early 80’s based on the Tootsie Pop commercial and Kansas’ Carry On My Wayward Son. That’s all a plus since I grew up in the seventies.
There were times I felt like I was watching This Is Us especially when the show focuses on Jack Pearson in the early years. Also a plus. And yes, this movie made me teary eyed too.
If you’re not familiar with the story, this movie is based on the true story of journalist and atheist Lee Strobel as he struggles to deal with his wife’s conversion to Christianity. But, unlike other Christian movies, this movie is not preachy, heavy handed, or cheesy as it follows the journey of Lee Strobel from atheist to believer.
This movie is well directed and well paced. Jon Gunn who has written for other Christian movies such as Mercy Streets and directed My Date With Drew starring Drew Barrymore. Gunn does a superb job of weaving not one but three story lines throughout the movie and they mesh perfectly.
There are some family side bars, like Lee’s relationship with his father, but even that adds to the movie versus being a distraction.
The tone, the realism, and the feel of the movie made me forget I was watching a “Christian” movie and, for me, that should be the point. There’s no sappy, over the top endings (I’m looking at you Facing the Giants). Gunn has made a movie that actually makes sense and is well crafted from beginning to end.
I also love the “experts” Strobel meets throughout the movie, including a cameo by Faye Dunaway. These characters were not goofy intellectuals or far fetched truth speakers to make the movie work. Each of the experts Strobel visited, were thoughtful and reasonable voices. None of these experts tried to convert Strobel, they only shared with him the facts, most of which he did not want to hear.
One of the biggest reasons this movie separates itself from it’s cheesy counterparts is the acting. Mike Vogel (Cloverfield) as Lee Strobel kills it. I believed every step of his journey. In the movie, Strobel struggles with his marriage, with drinking, with working too much, you know, a real person.
Vogel doesn’t over commit, but keeps a steady pass throughout the movie and shows what a real marriage looks like when the person you married changes, even if it’s for the better. The film is filled with conversations I could see real couples having about their faith or lack of it.
Vogel is not carrying this by himself. Erika Christensen (Parenthood, Flight Plan) plays Leslie Strobel and she does an excellent job of partying a hurt, confused wife trying to understand her faith and save her marriage.
Leslie finds Christ after her daughter is saved from choking by a nurse (Alfie) played by L. Scott Caldwell (The Fugitive, Gridiron Gang). Leslie’s conversion sets up the tension for the rest of the movie as Strobel tries to debunk the faith she has found.
I felt the struggle between Lee and Leslie. I felt the anger of Lee towards his father. I felt the desperation of a marriage that was crumbling. I felt the light in Lee’s eyes as he came to the conclusion so many people have after examining the Christian faith for themselves.
Maybe the best compliment I can give this movie is that going in, I thought it would only make me think and instead it made me feel. Here’s to more Christ-centered movies that make me do both.
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