God’s Not Dead
Director: Harold Cronk
Runtime: 113 minutes
Cast: Shane Harper, Kevin Sorbo, David A.R. White
Even by the rather lax standards of the Christian film industry, God’s Not Dead is a disaster. It’s an uninspired amble past a variety of Christian-email-forward boogeymen that feels far too long at just 113 minutes. Resembling a megachurch more than a movie, it’s been designed not to convey any particular message, but to reinforce the stereotypes its chosen audience already holds. It weirdly fetishizes persecution, and many of its story decisions—like randomly tossing in Duck Dynastystars Willie and Korie Robertson or concluding on an endless concert from popular Christian rock group Newsboys—seem designed to simply get butts in seats. To sayGod’s Not Dead preaches to the choir would be an understatement. It’s the pastor, staring in a mirror, preaching to himself.
The most worthwhile moments of God’s Not Dead come from Kevin Sorbo, of all people, who plays the film’s mustache-twirler of a villain, professor Jeffrey Radisson. Professor Radisson teaches an introduction to philosophical thought course that asks students, on the first day, to write on a sheet of paper that God is dead, then sign it for credit, so that he can move past the early stuff and get to the things he finds more fulfilling. As Radisson, Sorbo is playing a transparently awful person, but he has fun with his most villainous moments and even locates a few notes of sorrow and regret in Radisson’s backstory.
That makes it all the easier to side with Radisson against the film’s protagonist and supposed hero, young Josh Wheaton (Shane Harper), a freshman who ends up in Radisson’s class and decides to not just refuse to write that God is dead but also take the professor up on his challenge to somehow prove the existence of God in front of the class. Josh does this mostly by arguing that maybe he can’t prove God exists but Radisson can’t prove he doesn’t either, and by using complex computer animations of the galaxy that recall Fox’s recent reboot of Cosmos, which he apparently pulled together in his spare time over a couple of days. (Josh is evidently fine with both the Big Bang theory and evolution, but only if God’s behind them.) Josh, and the film that takes his viewpoint, doesn’t dare actually engage with Radisson’s arguments; any legitimate critiques of Christianity are ignored in favor of suggesting that all atheists are just haters who need someone to ask them to point out on the doll where organized religion touched them.