Last year, my wife and I watched the 2015 Christian film War Room, made by Alex and Stephen Kendrick. Just the usual warning of any detailed review: there are gonna be lots and lots of spoilers here. If you haven’t seen the movie, and you don’t want to know how it ends, if there are any twists, etc., then don’t read this review. If you don’t care, continue on – just don’t say I didn’t warn you.
It should be noted that, before watching this movie, my wife and I were big Kendrick Brothers fans. We own Flywheel, Facing the Giants, Fireproof, and Courageous on DVD and Blu-Ray (depending on the availability). I’m not hugely fond of modern “Christian” films, but the Kendrick Brothers’ movies were the rare exception. If you want an example of how highly I can praise one of their films, go and read my review of their first film, Flywheel. The point of me saying all this is we didn’t go in ready to bash this movie – while we had heard some questionable things about it, we had an open mind, and a past experience of glowing opinions regarding the Kendrick Brothers’ work. As it turned out, watching this film was a completely different experience for us entirely.
In the DVD commentary, the Kendrick Brothers say that the point of the movie is to teach that we fight our battles in prayer before anything else. Does it live up to that? Does it live up as a movie? Let’s talk about this…
The story centers around a couple by the name of Tony and Elizabeth Jordan, who have a young daughter, Danielle. Tony works for a pharmaceutical company, while Elizabeth handles real estate. Not all is rosy in the Jordan household: Tony and Elizabeth are constantly fighting, mainly because Elizabeth sends money to her deadbeat brother-in-law, to Tony’s disapproval. Furthermore, Danielle feels ignored by both her parents, who seem to show no interest in her lifestyle. To make matters worse, a woman at Tony’s job begins to show a blatant interest in him, and he reciprocates.
Then Elizabeth goes to appraise the house of an elderly woman named Clara Williams. Clara is a widow, whose husband Leo had served in the army during the Vietnam War. Clara takes a liking to Elizabeth and invites her over for coffee. While they have coffee, Clara confronts Elizabeth about her familial and spiritual situation, and tells her that she needs to fight back not against her husband, but what’s harming her marriage. At this point, Clara presents her “war room,” which is a regular closet she’s transformed into a literal prayer closet. At first, Elizabeth doesn’t take the idea of a “war room” seriously, but soon begins to post up Bible verses on the wall, praying in earnest for much of the day, etc. Suddenly she’s alerted by a friend that Tony is at a restaurant with another woman. Elizabeth responds by praying for God to prevent Tony from doing anything drastic. This results in Tony having a stomachache that prevents him from sleeping with the adulteress.
Tony discovers, by looking in Elizabeth’s texts, that she knows about the dinner with the woman, though he remains silent about it. He loses his job due to mishandling numbers and keeping some of the drugs for himself, but Elizabeth remains calm and understanding throughout. After reviewing his own life, Tony repents to Elizabeth and decides to be a better husband and father. This involves him getting involved in Danielle’s jump rope competition, and admitting to his bosses that he had been making money on the side. The latter conflict is resolved because Coleman, one of the company heads, is overtaken with Tony’s sincere repentance, and decides to overlook the crime. The former conflict is resolved when Danielle and Tony partake in the jump rope competition and come in second place. The film ends with Clara giving a long prayer asking God to raise up people who would be faithful to him; as she speaks, we see a montage of schools, sports fields, and even the Congress building. The End.
As I watched, I couldn’t help but think that everything we were witnessing had been done before. I started picking up things we had already seen in previous Kendrick Brothers movies. Some out there might give the “there’s no actual ‘original’ story” argument, but my point here is that, if you’ve seen the other Kendrick Brothers movies, you’ll notice a ton of rehashing in this one. As I watched with my wife, we both noticed many similarities with Flywheel, Fireproof, and Courageous. Don’t believe me? Let me go through some of the things we noticed…
Here were some elements from Flywheel:
- There’s a business-minded dad who is disrespectful to his wife, ignores his kid, hates going to church, and commits dishonest tactics at his workplace.
- The business-minded dad, after deciding to become a better Christian, wants to restore the wrong he did to those affected by his dishonest business practices.
- There’s a scene where a parent overhears their child telling another kid how much they don’t respect their parents.
Here were some elements from Fireproof:
- An elderly person comes into the main character’s life and saves the day with some practical idea.
- Best buds are seen sitting around a weight room, exercising and talking about the facts of life, including marital difficulties.
- The main character’s best friend is a Christian that serves as his voice of reason and conscience.
- There’s a “plot twist” involving the background of the elderly person and how the practical idea was related to their own personal life.
And here are some elements from Courageous:
- A character delivering drugs (in this case, legal drugs) keeps some to himself for profit, and later has to face up to the consequences for it.
- A character is faced with a tough moral question about their job which might lead them to getting fired or worse. (Though in this case, the character already was fired.)
- At the end of the movie, a character gives a big speech calling on people to action based on the moral of the film.
Ultimately, it comes across like the Kendrick Brothers wanted to promote “war room” theology, and just mixed plot elements from their previous films together to shoehorn it into a script. Indeed, much of the film feels like a bunch of ideas or elements strung together, with little time for the plot points to develop. This actually ends up hurting the movie, because you’re constantly reminded that the previous films handled these issues better.
Here would be a good time to lament one of my biggest complaints about the movie: it just gets boring. It keeps dragging things out with one thing after another, to the point that you sit there wondering when it’s going to end. The worst part is Danielle’s jump rope competition – oh yeah, they show you all of it. It never felt like this important subplot that had to be resolved, and it doesn’t offer anything for the characters other than for Danielle to proudly say “This is my dad!” (And even by then, we’ve already established she and her dad were on better terms, so it was completely unnecessary.) Even after this part is concluded, the film continues. I was seriously reminded of that episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 where Tom Servo asks, “Shouldn’t this be over?” Some internet reviews have opined that the film feels like they finished the main conflict twenty minutes early, then padded the rest of the movie with filler – that’s not too far off a description. Even during the final speech, you’ll be screaming, “Kendrick Brothers! Let my people go!”
|Actual Photo: My wife and I waiting for War Room to end|
If you want to know just how disinterested in the story I was, let me tell a little anecdote. Shortly after the mugging scene (see below), two policemen speak with Elizabeth and Clara. One of them is played by Ben Davies, who also played the rookie deputy in Courageous. I was reminded of that character’s story, with the cheerleader he had gotten pregnant, and the little girl he now wanted to be daddy to. I started to talk to my wife about how I hope he and the woman ended up together, and he did become a real father to his daughter. I started talking about how awesome the final shot of him stretching out his arm to offer a present to the girl was. I then realized that I had become much more emotionally invested in another movie than the movie I was actually watching – and all because of a minor character who’s in there for a few seconds.
|Most interesting character in the whole movie…and he’s barely in it|
That’s how bored I was.
Usually in a Kendrick Brothers movie, I can relate to the characters, or feel for them. Here, their usually strong delivery simply falls flat, or doesn’t succeed at all.
Let’s talk about Tony. What do we know about him early on? He yells at his wife, ignores his kid, and is committing adultery. True, the main character in Flywheel (sans the adultery bit) did that too, but there was still some humanity about him; you could tell he was an everyday man who was struggling to support a family and a business, but he had begun to forget the authority of God, and hence the rest of his life was falling apart. By contrast, Tony gets very little character development for most of the movie – heck, we have zero reason to believe he’s even a true Christian. The only real character development he gets is in the last third of the film, and it comes across as incredibly forced. You’re ultimately only supposed to like him because, hey, he repented, and this is an Evangelical movie, and you’re supposed to like someone after they repent. This is especially unfortunate because TC Stallings, who plays Tony (and who played the gang leader in Courageous), can indeed act, and in the few parts of the film where he’s allowed to let Tony breathe, he does a good job.
Now let’s also talk about Elizabeth. We’re supposed to sympathize with her for her struggles. We’re supposed to care about her. We’re supposed to feel bad for what her husband’s doing, and how her family is. The truth is, as my wife and I watched the film, neither of us felt any sympathy for her. I can list two big reasons for this:
First, Priscilla Shirer, who plays Elizabeth, just isn’t that great of an actress. Her delivery isn’t believable, even in the scenes where she’s supposed to be showing some subtlety. For example, when her daughter admits that she’s unsure if Elizabeth loves her, Priscilla Shirer barely shows any change of reaction, whereas most parents would surely have been at least a little bit affected. (I know I would feel absolutely heartbroken.) In all her crying scenes, it basically amounts to her staring at the camera with a blank expression while a single tear goes down her cheek. In the more comedic moments, her delivery is deadpan, and warrants no laughs. In fact, the only laughs from scenes with her are given by other characters. (For example, the delivery man and his “take your breath away” line.) It’s not that she’s the worst actress ever; it’s just that, since you’re supposed to care for Elizabeth, her acting doesn’t help the other problems. What astounds me is the Kendrick Bros. say she did a great job, and Shirer herself was happy with the results. Why either of them came to this conclusion, I don’t know.
Second, Elizabeth’s sins and faults are on blatant display, and yet are never really repented of or rebuked, either by herself or others. She’s disrespectful to her husband, who does have legitimate concern for how she’s using their money without telling him. Her daughter admits that she feels just as ignored by her mom as she does her dad. Elizabeth admits her and Tony aren’t sexually active, suggesting she doesn’t show any sexual interest in him (and it’s not like Fireproof, where they establish the husband was unrepentantly looking at pornography, hence the wife’s own physical disinterest). She acts bitter and selfish when upset, as shown by one scene where she frightens Danielle’s friend at the dinner table by repeatedly slamming her fork down on the plate. Point is, she has a lot of character to change, and yet the only fault given to her directly is “You don’t pray enough.” That’s basically it. The only thing that comes close to a repentance scene is when her daughter admits she’s unsure of Elizabeth’s love, and mother and daughter give each other a hug. By contrast, Tony repents to Elizabeth, repents to Danielle, and repents to his boss. It’s not that Tony didn’t have anything to repent of, it’s just that War Room has the same fault that many cite against Fireproof: all the focus is on the sins of the husband, and it’s he who must repent, while the wife gets off with a slap on the wrist.
Some here might protest that Elizabeth does change during the movie; and indeed, she shows Tony more respect after she begins her prayer closet, rather than ragging on them all the time. It won’t be denied something goes on with her, but there’s still no visible repentance from her. That’s it – a character change. Tony could have simply done a character change as well, but instead he’s made to be in tears and apologize for everything he’s done the entire movie. Elizabeth, by contrast, gets to skirt all this. Heck, even Clara, when talking about her deceased husband, talks about all the things she had to forgive him for, yet never talks about any of her own sins or transgressions. It’s all on the men: men are the sinners who need to repent; women just need to change their attitudes, and they’re good.
(By the way, before anyone wants to respond to this with “Thanks for mansplaining,” I want to point out that, as we watched, the harshest criticisms against Elizabeth came not from my own masculine lips, but from the lips of my wife. She, even more than me, thought Elizabeth had to repent, and was failing in her role as mother and wife.)
Yet the biggest offender regarding characters who fail is, ironically, Clara. I say ironic, because she’s supposed to be this wise, elderly sage who helps Elizabeth with her marriage, but in the end it only works out that way because the script says it does. Otherwise, she comes across as either creepy or intrusive. When Elizabeth is presenting a quote for her house, Clara begins asking about personal details about Elizabeth’s religious and marital life, and won’t stop even after Elizabeth makes it clear she feels uncomfortable. I’m a Christian who believes in the resurrected Savior and salvation through Christ alone, and even I thought the old bat was being nosy. Plus, all her humor scenes involve her rambling and babbling, and come across as a woman on the verge of going insane. I have a feeling they were trying to make her like the black woman in Flywheel, except whereas that woman was actually funny and likable, Clara is just senile and annoying.
To be fair, it’s not just Clara who comes across as creepy. In fact, many scenes with characters, played for laughs, just come across as weird. The biggest offender is the scene where Danielle finds her mom eating and drinking in the prayer room. You’re supposed to laugh at it, but Shirer’s delivery, the bizarre nature of the whole situation, and the look of shock on Danielle and her friend, make the entire scene more creepy than entertaining. Seriously, take out the background music and start playing something like the Nightmare on Elm Street theme, and tell me it has the same humor as before. My wife and I left that sequence more confused than amused. I was reminded of a line from Mystery Science Theater 3000 where a movie attempted to be funny, and Tom Servo remarked, “That was supposed to make me sad, right?”
Putting cinematic themes and motifs aside, one of the biggest complaints lodged against the film was the theology found within. Much has been written on this already by men who are much more learned and godly than I (for example, an excellent commentary from Justin Peters), but I feel this to be an important topic to cover if we’re going to review this movie in detail.
Let me quickly clarify, before I get into any theological criticism, that I firmly believe prayer is important. I don’t think any Christian reading this post is going to deny that. We’re commanded by scripture to pray, as a way of giving thanks, offering praise, or making requests to God. It is a duty of all Christians, and part of a healthy spiritual life should be a healthy prayer life. The only problem lies, as with any theological doctrine, in how far we take the power and means of prayer. Can we change God’s mind with our prayer? Do we, as some Word of Faith heretics claim, give God permission to act on earth by prayer? Can God only do things if we pray for Him to do it, as some Hyper-Charismatic heretics teach?
If we’re going to talk specifically about War Room and its theology of prayer, then we need to get to the big elephant in the room: the infamous devil rebuking scene. This scene happens shortly after Elizabeth begins her prayer room in earnest, and after she receives a text that Tony is with another woman. She steps out of her prayer room, then begins to directly address the devil, telling him that he no longer has power in this house. She then (I swear I’m not making any of this up) walks the devil out of her house, and tells him not to come back. (My wife literally responded with, “She freakin’ walked the devil out of her house? What the freakin’ crap!”)
The problem is that this scene, and many others involving prayer, takes what is God’s power and makes it ours. The Kendrick Bros., in the DVD commentary, defend this scene by saying that all Elizabeth is doing is what Jesus does in rebuking the devil. Yet why could Christ rebuke the devil, as he did during his temptations? This was because he was divine. He was God the Son incarnate. Contrast this with what Jude tells believers to do:
But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” [Jude v. 9]
The best comparison I might make is with a retail employee dealing with an irate customer. If a customer gets super upset to the point of becoming insulting or derisive, the employee doesn’t say “Get out of my store!” Rather, the employee says “Talk to my manager,” and the manager can kick the person out of the store – a store which he, not the employee, manages. Likewise, if we feel temptations from Satan, we rest on the authority and power of God, not by any personal commands from ourselves (even if “in Jesus’ name”). I don’t have any authority to rebuke the devil – I pray to God that He save me from such times, just as Michael the archangel did before Satan. In fact, the idea that we can go around fighting Satan while tossing in Christ’s name reminds me of the counter-rebuke from the demoniac in Acts: “I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?”
Some might try to appeal to the verse appealed to in the movie: just before her meltdown, Elizabeth reads James 4:7, which reads (in the NASB): “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” The script interprets this verse quite literally, as if we’re supposed to get up and start attacking Satan. The truth of the matter is the film takes the verse out of context and applies it in too broad a way, as often happens in Pop Evangelicalism. Here is a fuller context for verse 7 (the verse itself is in bold):
What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”? But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you. [James 4:1-10]
James is not talking about prayer closets. He’s not talking about jumping up and running around the house screaming at the devil. Rather, James is talking about personal sin struggles. James is addressing those who might be creating quarrels and conflicts because of their personal sins and desires. By doing so, the people had been creating two authorities in their life: the world (which gave them what they wanted), and Christ. You cannot, however, have two masters; as James himself says, friendship with the world is enmity with God. James, however, gives hope to the convicted Christian reading these verses: God gives grace to the humble – that is, those who can see their errors. Therefore, he commands them to “submit to God” (rather than to the world). Of course, submitting to the world will bring about temptations from our previous worldly desires. When this happens, we then “resist the devil” – that is, submit further to God, and fight against these temptations. God will not abandon us in this struggle. With this in mind, James gives the commands for believers to “cleanse their hands,” “purify their hearts,” etc.
The point of this is that War Room not only forgets the model scripture plainly gives us in dealing with the devil, but it misinterprets a verse about personal struggles and applies it to a much larger meaning. As a result, the film tells Christians that they can, by an extended authority, go around cussing out the devil and kicking him out of places. The fact is, the only authority we have is God’s, and we rely on that and not our own. Likewise, James 4:7 does not give us a right to engage in such spiritual warfare, but to turn to God in our more troubling moments of sanctification.
Another problematic scene, directly related to this, is the mugger scene. When confronted by a man with a knife, Clara tells him, “Put the knife down, in the name of Jesus.” What happens next? Without any hesitation, the mugger lowers his knife. End scene. That’s it. My wife and I had to pause the DVD a moment because of how dumbfounded we were. The Kendrick Brothers claim that such situations really do happen, and can be verified with news stories. I’m aware of such stories, and while certainly people have driven off muggers by witnessing, it’s been a lot more complicated than simply demanding they put the knife down. Yet here, by a mere command, a man with a knife just gives up.
Putting this aside, there’s the whole issue of the importance of a prayer closet. The Kendrick Brothers clarify in the DVD commentary that the idea of a “war room” is not to say you need a prayer room in the house, but merely a private place to pray. The problem is, such a general teaching isn’t taught in the movie itself. Everything happens, and the blessings pour out, because of the “war room” used by the characters. The causal effect is not a more God-centered life, but the “war room” all the characters participate in. Even Danielle starts to have her own “war room,” and finds her wishes fulfilled. Near the end of the movie, a pastor walks into Clara’s prayer room and says he knows it’s a prayer room because it “feels like it’s baked in” – in other words, this film makes a connection between prayer closets and what one might call “Evangelical mysticism.”
In fact, there’s so much mysticism or psychic-like ability given to the Clara character that one expects her to be turned into an Eastern Orthodox icon by the end of the film. One scene even jokingly acts like Clara can see things though she’s not there. She’s given this aura like she has some sixth sense thanks to her extensive prayer life.
There is likewise the ending of the movie, which feeds into the Evangelical mentality of how we need to in essence pray our problems away. Again, I’m not minimizing the importance of prayer, but God doesn’t expect us to pray and then wait for things to happen. The medieval Poles, upon approaching Vienna, were definitely praying to Christ… they were also readying their spears to charge headlong into the Muslim hordes. The problem is modern Christianity treats prayer as if by doing so there’ll be another outpouring of the Spirit, or God is going to miraculously do something while we sit back and twiddle our fingers. This is why you have Evangelicals who on the one hand want revival in America, and yet on the other hand want lots of Muslims to invade America so we can convert them. While the Kendrick Brothers would probably accuse me of misrepresenting how they were trying to represent prayer, that’s nonetheless how it comes across in the film. Even the movie poster advertises itself with “Prayer is a powerful weapon.” No – God’s a powerful weapon, and our prayers are an appeal to Him to utilize Himself given the circumstances.
These aren’t the only theological problems with the film. One problem I didn’t expect was in regards to submission. Obviously, we’ve established the disrespect shown by Elizabeth towards her husband, both in her attitude, how she speaks to others about him, and how she handles their finances. Another problem in her character’s attitude of a relationship to her husband is heard in a scene with Beth Moore. Yes, that Beth Moore. If you don’t know who Beth Moore is, you just need to know she’s a heretical Evangelical pastrix who thinks God gives her private revelations, and who literally teaches women to read themselves into Bible passages about other women. If you don’t know what she looks like, or just how crazy she is, here’s a hint:
But returning to War Room, Beth Moore plays Elizabeth’s boss. While they’re talking about her marital problems, Beth Moore delivers this line:
“Sometimes submission is learning to duck so God can hit your husband.”
I shared this line with someone else, who promptly responded with, “That is smug as heck!” Want to know something even more astounding? The Kendrick Brother told Beth Moore to just be herself in that role… and it was her who made up that “submission” line. Yes, that’s right – the line wasn’t originally in the script, but they let it stay in the film. This, despite the fact that the line is absolutely terrible. It’s an example of the soft feminism so rampant in Evangelicalism today, which otherwise likes to pretend it’s free of any form of feminism. It’s just a Christian version of the tendency among secular women to laugh at their husbands and treat them like idiot manchildren.
Let me put it this way. Suppose you had a scene where some Christian men were hanging around the office, complaining about how disrespectful their wives are. Imagine one of the men saying with a smirk, “Sometimes ‘nurturing’ is stepping back and letting God make an ass out of your wife.” Of course, all the soft feminists in modern Evangelicalism would be in an uproar – “Boo hoo that’s mean be nice to women blah blah blah.” Yet here the Kendrick Brothers (who emphasized the need for husbands to be respected in their DVD commentary for Flywheel) have permitted that kind of terrible theology to seep into their film.
And such an erroneous line was sourced to a heretic – who would’ve thought?
(Once again, let me do a little “mansplaining” here. After that line was delivered, the most vociferous reaction came not from my own XY-chromosome lips, but from my wife. She was utterly horrified by that line, and found it offensive.)
It’s easy to rant and rave against a movie, but it’s another to suggest how problems can be fixed. The sad thing is that, as I pondered on the movie after watching it, I realized that somewhere in here is a good movie. Let me present how I think it should have gone down instead…
We start with Elizabeth and Tony Jordan. Tony works for a pharmaceutical company, while Elizabeth works in real estate. They have a daughter, Danielle, who is working on a jump rope competition. Tony and Elizabeth are having struggles, both in balancing their careers and family time, as well as Elizabeth sending money to her deadbeat brother. This leads the two to fight. Meanwhile, at work, Tony is receiving praise and attention from a woman, who is clearly showing interest in him.
Elizabeth meets Clara, and the two share coffee over the appraising. They start to bond, and Elizabeth opens up more and more about her family. Meanwhile, Tony and the office woman are bonding more emotionally as well. Tony is starting to struggle with how far he takes this connection, given problems at home. At home, Danielle starts begging Tony to help her with jump rope practices, but he continually refuses, because of his work schedule.
While walking about, Elizabeth and Clara are mugged at knife-point. Clara shows absolutely no fear, despite the mugger’s attempts to frighten her. She begins to witness to the mugger, about his sin and the death due to him for it. The mugger eventually feels guilty and leaves in a hurry. Clara explains to Elizabeth that she is strong in her faith and life eternal with Christ, and hence she isn’t afraid of death. This makes Elizabeth more interested in Clara’s religious life, and she begins to reflect on her own. She comes to a realization that she has forgotten about God’s authority in her life, and she tearfully submits to God, praying for renewed strength in her life.
The Jordan home environment starts to change. Elizabeth tries to help Danielle out for her jump rope competition, although she makes it clear she wants her daddy to help. Elizabeth repents to Tony for how she had been treating him, and promises to be include him in their decision-making. Tony isn’t sure yet how to respond to this, and still struggles with temptations to commit adultery. Elizabeth’s humility, in fact, creates a spiritual struggle of his own, making him want to become more involved with his family. One night, while Tony works late, he is texted by both Elizabeth and the other woman, both of whom are in essence offering to give him late-night company. Tony struggles in his office, torn between marital loyalty and his fleshly desires…but finally decides to go home to his wife. He arrives and they cuddle, showing affection for the first time in the movie.
When he goes in the next day, Tony is laid off from his job. He becomes a broken man, feeling useless without the one thing that he had found purpose in. Elizabeth gives him tenderness, promising to stay by his side. Moved by her kindness and love, Tony apologizes for how he had been treating her, and asks for forgiveness for his attitude. He then goes to Danielle and promises to assist her with her jump rope competition. After much practice, Danielle, Tony, and the rest of the jump rope team perform at the competition, with Elizabeth and Clara in attendance. They win first place, and head home, where they have a special dinner, and give a prayer of thanks to God for all that has happened recently, good or bad. Roll credits.
Alright, I’ll be the first to admit this may not be the most perfect story idea ever written. However, I’m sure others who share my view on the film would agree it’s at least a much better delivery than what was offered in War Room. The ironic thing is that, as I thought more and more on how to make the story better, I realized that any idea completely removed the “prayer room” subplot.
There was plenty more in the movie that seemed like a drive-by concepts that could have been expanded upon. For example, a nightmare sequence has Tony trying to save his wife from a mugger, only to turn the mugger around and see it’s actually him. This sequence comes out of nowhere and feels like a forced attempt to build on Tony’s character after an hour-and-a-half of no development. What the Kendrick Bros. could have done instead was show that Tony was concerned about Elizabeth’s mugger episode, but was trying to act tough to hide his sincere concern. Throughout the film, Tony could have nightmares about Elizabeth and the mugger, and every time he has the dream, he gets closer and closer to the mugger. The next-to-last dream has him waking up just before the mugger’s identity is revealed. Then, with the last dream, he sees that the thing harming his wife is actually him. It would make the sequence feel less disjointed, and it would show that Tony does indeed care for his wife, even if he’s trying to conceal it.
Point is, there was definitely potential in this film, and much of it was wasted on prayer room silliness and plot points that are introduced but not developed enough.
At this point, I’m not certain what else to say about the film that I’ve already clarified. It’s boring, poorly written, shoddily acted, unoriginal, and presents dangerous theology. Oh yeah, and it has Beth Moore.
As I wrote at the beginning, my wife and I started out as big Kendrick Brothers fans… but by the end of this, we were both feeling disappointed. I’m not going to sit here and claim all their films are absolutely perfect (I doubt they would, either), but compared to most films in the “American Christian” market, they were of a higher quality than what you would find on late-night TBN or Daystar. This film, by comparison, was just weak. If the Kendrick Brothers decide to make another movie, good on them – but I hope they’ll put far more effort and time into it than they did with War Room.
Then again, considering this movie apparently made triple its budget back, maybe bad theology is much more marketable…