I have a tough audience, in that it ranges in age from 7 (just turned 8) to 51, and includes male and female. My 11 year old son isn't usually happy unless there are explosions and fights; my now-8-year-old is tired of fights and explosions, but needs something pretty fast-moving and active to grip him.
My daughter and wife are very understanding, but their preferences of course differ from the boys. Thank God, there is a lot of overlapping, but often I know a movie will more please one element than the other. I try to go back and forth even-handedly in that way.
In fact, just the beginning of the movie (which is football-themed) got some exclamations, to the effect that this isn't my usual fare.
But we all enjoyed it a lot. The acting is fine, generally much better than a community play, but not quite Academy Award level. The photography is also fine, the music complements the story well.
I liked the characters and dialogue a lot. People aren't plaster saints nor Chick tract villains, and there are a lot of very nice and nicely-done touches of humor all throughout. (My favorite would defy retelling, but involves a scene where a character moans over his test-score.)
The story takes place at a Christian high school, and the themes are openly Christian. I think a Christ-haunted "non" would find it a bit preachy, but depending on the size of his shoulder-chip, perhaps not overwhelmingly so. It tells a very nice story of people you can care about dealing with believable knots and crises, and the sum is uplifting and instructive.
I don't really like watching football, but I enjoyed this a lot, and recommend it.
Now some spoilery comments. Be warned. Don't read further if you haven't seen the movie.
Spoilery comments in 3...
It does trouble me that everything turns out so perfectly.
The movie sets up the hero-coach's dilemmas very well and involvingly. The viewer cares for him and his wife, and moans with the mounting burdens on his back.
But then by the film's end, every one of them has been solved — except that he's losing his hair. Maybe he'll get that too, in a sequel. Or maybe it'll get better if he stops rubbing the top of his head.
But he gets a new truck for free, finds the dead rat, overcomes his little-swimmer shortage, wins the championship, has the one kid he witnesses to convert to Christ and reconcile fully to his dad, keeps his job, gets a raise, and becomes President of the United States.
Okay, I made that last one up.
Now the movie does deal with the "What if God doesn't do what we want Him to do?" issue, to an extent. That is, the coach turns the team to commit themselves to praising God, win or lose. And they lose one, and return to and practice this commitment. And the coach challenges his wife as to whether she will still love God even if she never has a baby; and, after a crushing disappointment, she commits herself to that love.
But then after the former, it turns out they really did win the game they thought they'd lost; and, after the latter, the wife learns she really is pregnant. (In fact, they have two babies!) So hey, neat — if God takes away a toy, and we say "That's okay," He'll give it back. Cool!
Of course the movie says no such thing... but I don't think there is even one disappointment that isn't turned around like that. A disrespectful kid is converted and reconciled to his dad; the kid who flunked a test even gets 100 on his next!
But Christian living, in this life, simply is not like that, much of the time. Demas forsakes, and maybe never comes back (2 Timothy 4:10); we may suffer precisely for doing good (1 Peter 2:20); people even die for telling others about Jesus (Acts 7:54-60). Infertile couples often stay infertile, kids raised in the love of Christ can go horribly astray, Christian teams lose games, old cars get worse and worse and nobody gives us brand-new trucks.
So this will give me an opportunity to talk with my boys about these truths, and that's good. But:
- Will my words make as much of an impression as a movie did?
- What impression of the Gospel would an unbeliever take away from the movie?
And that's all good.