[By Linda Moldovan]
Overcomer (out in theaters now) is yet another in a long line of family-friendly, overtly Christian movies that have become increasingly popular (albeit in mostly Christian circles). Written and directed by, and starring Alex Kendrick, it’s a pleasant and emotional movie to watch. Everything that you would expect to be in this type of movie is there: apathetic (and dare I say it, privileged) Christians with lessons to learn, chance encounters, a struggling character on his death bed, teens with hurtles (literally) to overcome, and yet I feel like I have seen this movie before, because so many of these Christian movies are extremely similar. The plot is almost irrelevant. Although there is nothing wrong with this movie, there is also very little that screams “creative” or “groundbreaking.” Maybe this isn’t such a bad thing.
The author Andrew Klavan, who is a Christian and has had quite the Hollywood experience as a screenwriter, often talks about how he doesn’t particularly enjoy explicit Christian media because they are often safe, sanitized, and don’t reflect reality. Overcomer can sometimes fit into this category.
That may have something to do with the team that produces them. The Kendrick brothers have often stated that their movies are meant to be a source of conversion, or at least starting a conversation about faith. I was invited to a pre-release screening, and during the Q and A portion of the screening, one of the producers of the film told the audience that this is the specific and exact reason for making this film.
Overcomer is basically a Rorschach test for how cynical you are. If you are not a Christian, or if you are a cynical Christian, you will find yourself rolling your eyes often. If you, however, are an optimist, or are looking for something to grab onto, you may be in tears by the end of the movie. I experienced both throughout the movie. Much of my cynicism was lost, though, when after the movie was finished, a security guard in the theater had a short testimony where he discussed how he came to Christ recently after seeing this movie many times while guarding the theater.
The main reason why I am recommending this movie (besides the fact that I believe that it’s important to support family friendly, Christian-based films that may help non-believers or struggling Christians), is one of the main characters in the movie. Played by Cameron Arnett, Thomas Hill is on his deathbed throughout the film (I don’t consider this a spoiler, as it is stated very early on in the movie). Having never seen or heard of this actor, and having known the precedent set for many Christian-based films (professional actors are very often not used due to budgetary reasons, and it can sometimes show), I was blown away by his performance. He was easily the best actor in the film, and he was first rate and believable from beginning to end. The other main actors were fine, but paled in comparison to his performance.
The movie is standard. It can get a little preachy, although the filmmakers have been nothing but forthcoming about this aspect of the film. It can be really funny at times. It has another issue that Tyler Perry’s Madea movies have: you can get a sort of whiplash from the back and forth comedic and dramatic scenes. Overall, however, I recommend this movie, and give it 3.5 out of 5 stars.