(Slight spoilers ahead.)
I’d like to give a good, the bad, and the ugly review. I suppose I could do “who, what, where, etc” but I like Clint Eastwood, more even than Jeremy Renner, so you’re stuck. 😉
So, the good…
As with God’s Not Dead (made by the same people, just in case you didn’t know), I liked the way the story demonstrated our interconnectedness. Regardless our religion, we all seem to forget that what we do, decisions we make, affect people around us and beyond. Both movies have made the idea that one person’s decision, in the cases of these films the decision to make a certain stand for Christ, and how that decision affects their lives and the lives of those around them, the central theme. And, while this ended up being a detriment in God’s Not Dead, where the character development was weak, it didn’t prove to be as much of a problem in Do You Believe? The characters and their stories, as they were revealed throughout the film, accomplished what God’s Not Dead wasn’t able to in that it also connected the viewer to the characters. IE You find that you can care about each of these characters despite their limited screen time. This is accomplished by thoughtful dialog that draws you into each person’s story with as little as one line. For example, when the pregnant teen says that her step-mother kicked her out of the house, her brief story of why (she refused to have an abortion) only creates more reason to sympathize with the homeless girl.
As an aside, this is not an easy feat to achieve in multi-character point-of-view stories. Even the “great” Joss Whedon failed (IMO) miserably in Avengers 1. No, this is not a specific attempt to take a jab at Whedon. I’m just saying it’s not as easy as it looks to create compelling characters in two hours, let alone multiple characters.
The acting was far better than in God’s Not Dead. I assume by their ability to draw more big names to this project that they have enough money now to do so. It really does make a difference. Though, I have to say, it’s not as big a deal to me in Christian films. Knowing how much it costs to make a film, I give them leeway if they have a compelling story that presents some aspect of the Gospel. Which, in this case, according to Braniac’s review he gave me this morning, it is to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” 🙂
There were a lot of stories and a whole lot going on. I’m not sure how most people feel about that, but I would have preferred to have had maybe two, at tops, three, stories going on during the film. Though the flow of the film and the clarity of the idea was much smoother than God’s Not Dead, I still found myself wishing to go deeper into a few instead of just topically into as many as they did.
It was also a lot more violent than God’s Not Dead. Even my kids, who watch The Flash and Arrow, thought it was a bit intense, especially at the end. So, if your kids find action films too much, this will definitely be far more than they can handle.
I’ll try not to make this part too spoilerish but there is a scene at the end that, like the Muslim girl’s story in God’s Not Dead, made no sense. It not only didn’t add anything to the story, instead detracted from it. I kept shaking my head thinking, “Doesn’t the writer understand the legality of what they just made happen?” I suppose they thought it made some sort of compelling “happy ending” but the legal issues created by killing off one of the characters is still bugging me. (I will probably have to write a fix-it at some point. :D) It was also a lot like the ending scene between the pastors in God’s Not Dead, namely, awkward. Hard for me to be happy, even in fiction, when someone just died. It’s like those family photos some people feel compelled to take at graveside services, there’s just something more than a little wrong in asking people to “smile for the camera” while standing over the newly deceased.
Over all, I give it 4 of 5 stars. (Rare to give a 5 star, it’d have to be on par with, I don’t know, The Searchers, and nothing is on par with The Searchers.) I would definitely recommend it.
BTW, the kids and I are starting a pool on whether or not the filmmakers are going to blow up a building in the next movie…it certainly seems headed in that direction. 😉