Life Compass
Keeping You Pointed in the Right Direction


Alex Kendrick and the Sherwood Baptist Church of Albany, GA have released their fourth movie entitled COURAGEOUS. The movie, released through Tri-Star Sony Pictures,  opened this weekend on approximately 1,400 screens nationwide. They waste no time getting the action rolling with a car jacking in the first ninety seconds of the film. A desperate father not wanting the theif to make off with his son in the backseat hangs on the wheel and won’t let go. That becomes the challenge to dads’ throughout the movie: don’t take your hand off the wheel.

I saw the movie on Friday with my wife and children. I do not want to give the plot away to those who have not seen it.

Yes, I enjoyed the movie. It is well made and the action scenes are very realistic. Not at all the quality you would expect from a “church” film. The theme of the movie is simple: dad’s step and be the dad God wants you to be. The underlying theme is that taking care of your responsibilities to family is more COURAGEOUS than anything you can do on the job.

The movie centers around four friends and co-workers who invite a fifth guy into their circle. After a devestating accident and personal loss for the lead character, they commit to hold each other accountable to be better dads. They affirm these commitments in a special service with their families present.

There’s humor, action, organized plot line, and plenty of opportunity for emotion. That said … there’s something missing. Something they had with ease in Facing The Giants but are trying to force in COURAGEOUS: Inspiration. The movie gets “preachy” rather inspirational. Facing the Giants appealed to a wide audience including those who are not born again Christians. COURAGEOUS is a targeted movie to men but will sadly probably only reach “church” men rather than the masses. Why? The five storylines among the friends are predictable, cliche’, and more like sermon illustrations. In some ways too fictional to be believable. In other ways, too

Alex and his brother take a year to pray and seek the Lord for their next movie project. I have no doubt they felt led to deal with a timely subject matter in the absense of fathers. But a better route to tell the story would have been to have one or two dads and show us -not preach at us- how they changed. Kendrick, though gifted and anointed by the Lord to bring quality entertainment with a message on the big screen, is falling into a familiar trap of repeating the same method just with different characters. In Flywheel he’s a backslidden car salesman who’s about to lose everything from his business to his family. He and God have an all night session in the Word, lots of principles gleaned and written down, a goal set, and a total transformation of the character. In Facing the Giants he plays a football coach who is about to lose his job when an all night session with God and the Word leads to principles written down, a goal set, and a total transformation of the character. In COURAGEOUS he is about to lose his son… Yup. Same thing.

The difference in Flywheel was it was just about him. He was not preaching at anyone. You were inspired by his change not his rhetoric. In Facing the Giants there were several other characters who contributed to the plot line like the prayer warrior who told him to prepare for rain and the crippled father who told his doubting son that actions will always follow your beliefs. Anyone who had ever faced a difficult situation or life test was encouraged, uplifted, and inspired by Facing the Giants. It had mass appeal, can be purchased anywhere, and is even shown on HBO from time-to-time. The movie also made Casting Crown’s The Voice of Truth one of the most popular Christian songs of the decade.

In COURAGEOUS he meets with the guys, hands out his new principles, and then spends the rest of the movie preaching to the men in the audience rather than acting and telling the story. When he stands in church preaching to them it is pointed at the movie patrons. This movie is falling into a formula rather than an experience. Scenes following a tragic death are filled with cliche’s, forced emotions, and lack real conflict. A good story line involves conflict. There was no real emotional, heated exchange between the main character and the son he was losing.

Alex Kendrick blew me away with Facing the Giants. When I first saw it I wept. I cried. I shouted. Everything from the struggle for he and his wife to have children to the life lesson of Brock crawling blindfolded the entire length of  football field  into the end zone to demonstrate not quitting was motivational, inspiring, and an experience. That’s why I have seen the movie about 30 times. COURAGEOUS plays like a Lifetime Network or Hallmark Channel movie with verses.

Do I regret seeing it? No. Would I recommend others to see it? Yes.  So what’s my issue?

The Kendrick brothers stated they wanted to make movies that people outside of church would watch. This was originally an outreach idea. I believe they are drifting from their vision. They are now preaching sermons in FIREPROOF and COURAGEOUS rather than telling stories people are compelled to watch over and over. I showed Facing the Giants in a high school chapel. The vast majority had never seen it. They were moved and raved about it. I just want the Kendrick brothers to continue to be blessed and bring quality stories in a hostile entertainment venue. My fear is if they are perceived as sermons rather than stories that inspire … they will be relegated straight to DVD or church fellowship hall events.

Side note… I was disappointed that Casting Crown’s COURAGEOUS which was written for the movie is not in the movie! What’s up with that?

It is a courageous thing for Alex and Sherwood Baptist to make these movies and step into an arena that doesn’t share or like our philosophy of life. May they continue to do so in such a way that people in the audiences enter the story on that screen by applying what inspired them.

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