Faith-based movies are filling a void

Published 11:08 am Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Life is full of ironies. Who knew that my son, raised in south Mississippi, would one day reside 217 miles north and spend last Saturday afternoon in the very theatre where I saw the first installment of Star Wars? The Tobie Twin Cinema is still so small, in fact, that he very well may have been just rows away from where my friend Lisa and I tried (unsuccessfully) to understand all the hoopla surrounding Chewbacca and Luke Skywalker. We were oblivious, scarfing down popcorn while a sci-fi phenomenon went right on over our heads.

I asked Son No. 1 if aisle-pacing Mrs. Maxey, red-headed and always balancing the butt of a cigarette between her lips, was anywhere to be found on the premises.

“Nope,” he answered, adding that it looked like everything else about the place, though, had apparently stayed pretty much the same since Darth Vadar made his debut there in 1977.

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Son No. 1’s church had rented the facility for a special showing of “War Room,” the latest cinematic effort from Christian filmmaking’s dynamic duo, the Kendrick brothers – as in the “Facing the Giants,” “Fireproof” and “Courageous” Kendrick brothers. Their box office successes (“War Room” grossed nearly $11 million last weekend) have proven that people of faith aren’t only people of pews. We can pack the rows at a theater, too – when the screenplay is right.

The ticketeer at Brookhaven’s West Brook Twin Cinema confirmed that as well, reporting sales during “War Room’s” opening weekend here as “busy.” That, and the fact that there were longer lines for this religious flick than for the R-rated box office champ “Straight Outta Compton” in many places, has some secular reviewers scratching their heads – and pointing out what they see as the film’s negatives.

The Hollywood Reporter calls the lead actor’s turnaround from almost-adulterer to a man whose heart is turned to his family “so sudden and extreme that it makes Scrooge’s transformation look subtle by comparison.” Michael Rechthaffen of the Los Angeles Times describes one of the main scenes — when the desperate wife commands Satan to stay away from her man — as being more than those outside the flock can handle.

Even some Christians who recommend the movie caution against happy-ending spirituality: “It’s a little hard to watch for people who have been praying for someone for a long time and are still waiting for God’s answer,” posted one woman. “The movie is a bit simplistic in suggesting our prayers will be answered as quickly and completely as they are in this movie.”

Even so, the emotional sniffling I heard from Monday’s matinee crowd indicated the film’s portrayal of family struggles struck a chord, and it’s theme of prayer as the most powerful weapon against them is obviously resonating with moviegoers as well. As one media analyst noted, “Faith-based movies are filling a void and serving an audience that has been pretty much left out of the movie conversation for many years.”

Tell that to the web’s Rotten Tomatoes, which gave “War Room” a 25 percent rating on its Tomatometer this week. The same reviewer, however, was forced to post a much higher audience score of 91 percent for the film — and therein lies an irony more telling than any involving my son and his seat in my hometown theater last Saturday. Patrons want more movies like “War Room,” even if critics don’t. How many more hits will it take for Hollywood to get the message?

Wesson resident Kim Henderson is a freelance writer who writes for The Daily Leader. Contact her at