Unearthing the Garbage: Courageous

Note: This is yet another review for a movie that was doled out as punishment for my failings.  I have many of those, so there are many punishment films I have watched and reviewed.  Christopher was a total jerk with this one, which is kind of what he was going for.  He knows that a lot of faith based films aren't necessarily the best, and he also knows that when he finally loses the Summer Box Office Challenge I will be selecting three of the worst faith based films I can find to torture him with.

 Original Review: I lost a bet, and because of that I have had to watch and review the movie Courageous.  Before I begin and start talking about the movie, I should state that I should have never taken the bet and anyone who is tempted to take a bet when viewing Courageous is on the line should just pack up and walk away.  If it makes you look like a coward, then so be it.

It should be noted that I am a Christian and this is a Christian movie.  That means that I should love it, correct?  Wrong.  I was pretty upset with what I saw in this movie, and I think that comes from the fact that generally faith based movies are not that good.  The production quality is not as solid as main stream movies, and that sure is the case with Courageous.  It felt more like a 'made for TV' affair than it did something that was destined to be on the big screen.

So, is it a budget issue?  Surely that must be the case, you would think.  The production budget of this movie is two million dollars, which answers the question.  It is not the budget.  Blumhouse productions have made movies for that price, as well as many other studios, that look so much better. The only real answer to the question of why this doesn't look like a cinema movie is the fact that there just isn't the attention to detail that most studios put forth.  It is not as bad as the remake of Left Behind, but it isn't much better, either.

The film focuses mostly on four men, with a token hispanic.  This was better race representation than I was expecting from the movie, to be honest.  As well, not all black people are criminals, and not all criminals are black.  That's another positive for this movie.  I have seen other Christian movies and trailers for Christian movies that seem lost when it comes to racial depiction.

These four men, plus the token hispanic, make a pledge to be solid fathers based off of biblical teaching.  There it is.  That's the plot.  It isn't much of one, and the movie sure takes its sweet time in getting there.  I should mention that this movie is over two hours long, and could have probably been a much snappier and poignant film around an hour and a half.  The film adds on scenes of action with no real connection to the story.  It feels like an attempt to make it more marketable and, as much as I like action, since it has nothing to do with the plot then it really shouldn't be in the movie.

When it comes to the spiritual aspect of the movie, there is nothing subtle about this film.  The faith components are heavy handed, ham-fisted, elements that are laid out in a manner that will probably resonate with people of the same belief system, but will most likely not be intriguing to someone outside of it.  There is a scene where one believer tells a non believer about their faith, and there is no back and forth in that moment.  No questions raised by the 'pagan' to get any sort of apologetics or airing out of the big questions surrounding those who may not be Christians.  It is a missed opportunity, and is a reflection of the poor script in general.

The movie was written by Alex and Stephen Kendrick, and it is a script that could have used a lot of culling.  As I mentioned, there were action sequences, though well shot by director Alex Kendrick, that could have been scrapped from the film.  The movie also tries to balance too much with its tale of five men, and could have been simplified.  There is no shortage of expository dialogue, and, as mentioned previously, the elements around spirituality aren't handled with a great deal of ease.

While I am being very tough on this film, it should be mentioned that it is not the most painful experience in the world.  While it doesn't meet the level that it should be aiming for, it is not the biggest miss in the world.  Where it shines are in the aforementioned action sequences, but I have already mentioned that I don't think they should have even been in the film.  The cinematography isn't the worst, and there are a few small performances that hit the mark (it needs to be noted that in general the acting in this movie is serviceable at best).

I have to say that it sucks to be a Christian and have to watch a movie like this.  It could have done such a better job.  I know that it could have.  The problem is in the lack of attention to detail and the fact that just good enough was what it felt like they were aiming for.  I really wish that there was a better pool of faith based movies to reflect what real religion looks like, but that is not the reality.  We are stuck with what we have, and generally that is barely good enough.

Rating - 1.5 out of 4 stars