Dave White
Courageous Review

Dave's Rating:

2.0

Miraculously miracle-free.

One thing you should know about overtly religious movies: most of them are very weird. I'm speaking specifically about headscratchers like 2000's God's Army, a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints-themed film in which a disabled man gets up and walks, thanks to the prayers of Mormon missionaries. I'm also talking about 2004's Ushpizin, where an Orthodox Jewish couple pray to God for a boy child and, after obeying the hospitality rules of the Succoth holiday, are miraculously blessed with the birth of a son. I'm talking about wacky last days/rapture films like Left Behind and The Omega Code, its sequel Megiddo: Omega Code 2 and absolutely bonkers efforts like C Me Dance, in which a teenage ballerina/cancer patient battles Satan and mind-controls unbelievers into obeying the Lord.

So you can see why general audiences might not want to spend money on this kind of thing.

But then along came Fireproof, the third movie from Sherwood Pictures, a filmmaking church ministry in Georgia. These folks make deeply conservative Evangelical Christian films, but they usually steer clear of plot developments involving straight-faced, laugh-inducing miracles. They're just movies about people who talk about Jesus all the time. Fireproof was made for less than a million dollars and it grossed about $33 million, so people respond to this. And now Courageous is here, the fourth Sherwood movie. It's about Christian cops who want to be better fathers.

There are no stars, but there's a consistent presence in Alex Kendrick, who appears here as the main police officer. He also wrote and directed the movie, and he was the director of Fireproof. He's pretty much now this genre's Woody Allen/Tyler Perry and he's at least as good a filmmaker as Perry. You can take that for what it's worth.

Here, five male friends -- four police officers and one non-cop working class guy, with varying degrees of faith in God -- encounter everyday challenges in their family life. One needs a decent job, while another has a crisis of conscience over the single mom he abandoned to raise their child alone. One struggles to make child support payments and another has a daughter getting a little too close to a teen criminal. Meanwhile, Kendrick's character experiences the tragic loss of a child in an accident. You can feel the storyboarding taking place as it tries to cover all the possibilities.

Over the course of these criss-crossing events, the five men decide they need to create a ceremony where they'll sign a resolution that'll cement their commitment to God and to being better fathers. If you're of a mind to believe that in order to be a good parent you also have to be a conservative Evangelical Christian, this will sound like a reasonable plan of action. You might even wind up logging on to the film's website and purchasing all of the film's tie-in books (also written by Kendrick) so you can sign your own resolution.

The rest of you will wonder why it's so clunky and stiff and long-winded, the movie equivalent of being dragged to a friend's church during their semi-annual outreach drive. So yeah, it's still a preach-to-the-choir movie, but this choir doesn't really see itself on the big screen very often, so don't begrudge them a film where the action hero cop stops and prays for guidance before big gun battle. It happens.

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