Movie Review: “God’s Not Dead” – Subtlety Is Though

Written by Jesse Gelinas April 22, 2014

The Duck Commander himself in "God's Not Dead"

There is a war on. Many of you aren’t aware of it. In fact, many of you are victims of this conflict without even knowing it… or suffering any kind of injustice or pain at all. It is a war… on God! Militant Atheists across the globe are mobilizing to remove God from the hearts and souls of young children and puppies. They seek to root out the light of Jesus’ love and replace it with an endless void of science, literature, and self-awareness. Luckily, one film stands above all others in the fight against this growing darkness. One film chooses to take up the microphone and proclaim: God’s not dead; He’s surely alive! He’s livin’ on the inside, roaring like a lion! God’s not dead; He’s— Apologies; I got lost in those damn catchy Christian hooks.

**Spoilers follow**

Josh Wheaton (yes, Josh Wheaton) is just a bright young Christian who wants to be a lawyer someday. Standing in his way is the arrogant anti-theist philosophy professor Radisson. Radisson demands that all his students sign a piece of paper declaring “God is dead”. Josh alone refuses, and so takes up a challenge from Radisson- twenty minutes at the end of three lectures to defend God’s existence. He has his holy mission. Meanwhile, there are six barely-connected side “plots” going on. Mina, Radisson’s Christian girlfriend, feels degraded by her intellectual lover. Amy, a liberal, animal-rights-loving blogger finds out she has cancer after interviewing “Duck Dynasty” star Willie Robertson. Mark (Mina’s brother and Amy’s boyfriend) is, and continues to be, a dick. Ayisha, daughter of a devout Muslim is forced to conceal her secret Christianity. Martin, a Chinese exchange student is intrigued by Josh’s words and calls his dad multiple times to tell him. And Pastor Dave (Mina’s friend and Josh’s only cheerleader) can’t get his car to start. Truly these are the crusaders of our time. These tenuous connections are not explored. These “plots” are not resolved.

“Science supports His existence; you know the TRUTH!”

The film doesn’t even try to look like it’s fair, balanced, evenhanded, or tolerant of others. The Atheists of the film are loud, angry, and filled with hate for every Christian they see. The only Muslim in the film is a zealot who beats his daughter when he catches her listening to Bible-study. The only foreign character (Martin, the naive Chinese boy) has a domineering father who only cares about the academic success of his son. Every one of these characters is just a cardboard cutout of a caricature of a cliche. The writers attempt (and I say attempt because they fail) to make the Christian characters seem well-rounded, charismatic and relatable, but they’re all the same. God is all they know and all they talk about. “God is good all the time” is their signature catchphrase and is shoehorned into every scene featuring Pastor Dave.

Josh in "God's Not Dead"

Josh has this dumb look on his face through the whole movie.

Even if I tried to put aside the awful writing, the acting is just atrocious. Dean Cain (irrelevant for roughly 17 years) is the biggest name in the film and he is just painful to watch. Kevin “Hercules” Sorbo (hereafter The Sorbs), even though his character is a travesty of screenwriting, actually kind of owns the role and is perfectly solid throughout. Even when he starts spewing completely unnecessary Shakespeare, he kind of pulls it off. At least, he makes me want to believe he’s pulling it off. I mean, come on; it’s The Sorbs. Duckman Willie Robertson has a completely random cameo where he quotes scripture by memory and laughs at the silly liberal blogger and her ‘gotcha questions’. And of course Newsboys, the band from which the title of the film was taken, have an extended concert scene to appeal to… whoever actually buys their albums I guess.

“Lies, lies, and more lies.”

As expected, the most ludicrous portions of the film are Josh’s lectures defending God’s existence. In the first (the only one to contain any attempt to incorporate science) the film cuts away to show Pastor Dave’s car troubles, only to cut back to Josh literally saying “and that shows that He must’ve created it”. Apparently the writers hoped we would just fill in the blanks ourselves and assume Josh hit the nail on the head. Checkmate Atheists. Professor Strawman of course catches up to Josh outside and physically assaults and threatens him before storming off in a defeated huff. But don’t worry, he gets his. At the end of the film Josh tricks Radisson into admitting he hates God (and therefore totally believes in him), causing the ENTIRE classroom to stand up and proclaim “God’s not dead”. Radisson is then hit by a car and dies a painful bloody death in the rain… but not before being ambushed by Pastor Dave who, instead of seeking medical aid, asks if Raddison “knows Jesus”, and proceeds to convert him moments before he expires. Meanwhile the Christian heroes are enjoying a Newsboys concert featuring a second Duckman cameo. Oh, the cancer girl also finds Jesus, and so does the naive Chinese boy. God is good all the time.

Josh Wheaton and his militant anti-theist professor in "God's Not Dead"

The whole movie.

The film ends. A postscript appears asking the viewers to text everyone they know that “God’s not dead” and join the movement. Then an extensive list of court cases is presented, apparently the inspiration for the film (feel free to look them up; none of them resemble anything in the movie). Roll credits. This is apparently the message of the film. Pretend you saw a convincing argument take place, and then text other people about it.

“God is good all the time.”

When I went to the theater, I was honestly surprised to see so many true believers in the seats. Applause followed the closing of the film. An old lady turned to my girlfriend and me and said “Well worth seeing. Well worth seeing.” I nodded and smiled. I wasn’t there to ruin anyone’s day. I was just curious. Please understand, I’m not writing this review as an Atheist. I have no problem with anyone’s faith. I have no problem with anyone as a Christian, or as a film goer. Just please know that this film and others like it are trash. Silly, ignorant, intolerant, propagandist trash.I struggle to rate it properly on a 10 point scale. I feel there’s only one thing that can be said to films like “God’s Not Dead”.

My Rating:

Poster for "God's Not Dead"

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About Jesse Gelinas

After years attempting to escape the Matrix, Jesse has accepted his fate as a writer and Senior Editor. Now that's he finished with his film degree, it gives him something to do while waiting for the machines to get careless.

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