Not the most watertight case you’ll ever hear…
Despite the dramatic decline of Christianity in America over the past forty years, this last decade has seen Christian based films released with more regularity, in particular those produced and distributed by Pure Flix, who also own an online streaming service. What has continued to plague these films time and again is the lack of quality found both at script and production level, typically producing an end product that meets most people’s low expectations of what a Christian film can offer. One good thing that can be said about The Case for Christ is it attempts to change that perception, lowering the lofty tone and raising the production value considerably.
The film is an adaptation of the book of the same name, written by ex-Chicago Tribune journalist Lee Strobel (Mike Vogel) some years ago. It tells the story of how he changed from being a hard-nosed fact based journo into a firm believer of Christ back in the 80s. After his daughter is saved from choking in a restaurant by helpful Christian-come-nurse, Alfie (L. Scott Caldwell), – a woman who retains an annoying look of self satisfaction on her face throughout the duration of the film – Lee’s wife Leslie (Erika Christensen) begins to drift towards God’s warm embrace. Frustrated and angry, Lee isn’t about to take this lying down. He stops just short of going full Billy Connolly as he sets out to disprove the Bible’s telling of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, by examining the cold, hard facts.
Strobel’s book forms the backbone of the screenplay and even though he has since left his journalist career behind, he has continued to write and his pragmatic style exerts a less aggressively preachy tone. That transmits through to the film and is helped along by a professional set of actors who offer good enough performances. Robert Forester makes a fleeting appearance along with born-again Christian Faye Dunaway, the small budget no doubt restricting their involvement. Mostly it’s gentle middle of the road fare, barely offensive to any atheists and far from an inspiringly told story for would-be converts.
Production wise it certainly looks handsome enough and the retro setting convincingly sets the stage. Despite Vogel and Christensen’s efforts to do the best they can with the material at hand, the closer we get to Strobel’s moment of revelation, the harder it becomes to retain interest. His investigation could have formed the basis of an All The President’s Men/Spotlight-style look at atheism vs religious faith, but much of that is treated with kid gloves and it’s becomes a waiting game until we reach the prayer money-shot at the end. In relative terms this is an improvement on previous faith-based films but by the end you’ll no doubt just be rolling your eyes up to the heavens in despair.
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