I was originally going to review God’s Not Dead before the sequel, but I quickly realized that there was far too much wrong with the first movie. The review would be about 6 pages long (can’t waste that much of your time), and I would not be able to accurately describe how badly it represents Christianity with words. I’m going to save that review for a later date (when I am ready to initiate my next phase of reviewing), but for now I’m going to go over God’s Not Dead 2 because it is slightly better than the first one, but still leaves much to be desired.
God’s Not Dead 2 is directed by Harold Cronk and written by Chuck Konzelman and Cary Solomon. Stars-Melissa Joan Hart, Maria Canals-Barrera, Ernie Hudson, Hayley Orrantia, and Pat Boone. Premise-A high school teacher (who is a Christian) is reprimanded for bringing up the Bible in her history class. She has the option to apologize and never bring up Jesus again, or fight the school system in court. She hires Jesse Metcalfe as her defense attorney and the court case begins.
Even though this movie is much better than its predecessor, there are still many problems with it. The story takes a while to get going, some of the pointless subplots/side characters return, and while they do have slightly more to do with the main plot, their screentime doesn’t amount to much (granted we do see a bit of what happened to them after the first movie). The awkward transitions from the first movie are still here, and many scenes could have been cut completely. Also, this movie has little to no connection to Josh’s struggles from the first movie. Professor Radisson is never brought up (nor do we see Josh’s whereabouts), and Reverend Dave never interacts with the main protagonist. The villains of this movie are just as obvious as the ones in the first, and Melissa Joan Hart’s acting could be much better, and the movie contradicts itself a few times when it presents its arguments, but never in a fatal way.
I’m not including spoilers for this movie, because I would actually recommend watching it, for a few reasons. First, the humor. Yes, it would appear that the filmmakers learned that audiences typically don’t like to be depressed for 2 hours when they watch a religious film. God’s Not Dead 2 has some well-timed jokes evenly dispersed throughout the movie so the tone doesn’t completely overwhelm you (a well-utilized Pat Boone is the source of most of those funny jokes). The cinematography is decent, the music is pleasant, and the (one of the many) moral is much more relatable, so it wouldn’t be a movie that only Christians can connect to. Also, thanks to a bigger budget, they were able to hire Ernie Hudson, who gives the best performance in the movie as the judge of the case.
I was very worried that God’s Not Dead 2 was taking its message to a political level. Can you blame me? We all know how well it turned out when they tried it with a college setting. However, I think that because they went with a more important setting, it makes the story even more suspenseful because the stakes are higher. I’m a sucker for movies that take place largely in courts or ones that have to do with law (A Few Good Men, Liar Liar, 12 Angry Men), and God’s Not Dead 2 takes place in the courtroom for a large amount of the second/third act. Despite the fact that you know who is going to win in the end, the movie cleverly uses its characters to throw you off. The prosecutor (despite his obvious bad guyness) makes compelling cases (almost as if the writers were trying to craft a professional argument) and arguments against Hart’s character (Grace). However, Grace’s attorney (Tom) makes even stronger arguments, utilizing real life authors (Lee Strobel, and Rice Broocks to name a few) to prove both his case, and the existence of God. This is how you tell a story and teach a message simultaneously without looking like a preacher. You won’t believe what holds this movie together, it is actually Jesse Metcalfe! Seriously, the first time he appears on screen he is presented as an amateur lawyer, but a diligent one. We quickly see that he is committed to win, and uses many different tactics to strengthen his case (and he’s not even a Christian!). Metcalfe’s acting makes him sort of a Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men type (if you removed the smarta** part of the character), young but confident. The ultimate way he wins, is in a scene so dramatic, so well-acted, so well shot, and so full of tension, that I would call it a M.M.M. if my grade of the movie were higher (a film has to get an A- or higher in order to receive a Triple M). The movie is worth the price of admission just to see the final court scene.
Honestly, this movie only looks good because it followed (what many consider to be) the worst Christian movie ever made; otherwise it would be taken as subpar. Not to say that it doesn’t have its moments, but not up to the quality that it could have been, had the screenplay been stronger. I can’t imagine the message will convert many atheists to Jesus, but for what it turned out to be, I’d say we’re blessed 😉. God’s Not Dead 2 gets Guy’s Guru Grade of a C+.