Starring: Jennifer Garner, Martin Henderson, Kylie Rogers, Brighton Sharbino, Courtney Fansler, Queen Latifah, Eugenio Derbez, John Carroll Lynch
Directed By: Patricia Riggen
Christian themed cinema is a thing now, and while I refuse to watch stuff like God’s Not Dead, I’ll watch the occasional studio-backed effort, especially when it stars one of my favorite actresses, Jennifer Garner. I’ve been a fan of hers ever since Alias, and I think she’s undervalued as a star in Hollywood. We need more 13 Going On 30’s in this world, and Garner is the perfect actress for those films.
I have to say that I also had a bit of a laugh throughout the film because of Brighton Sharbino, who played Lizzie on The Walking Dead. Not to spoil anything, but let’s just say that Lizzie is not the best “big sister” in the world. So to see Brighton in this film, again as the big sister, I was like “No! Don’t go outside with her!” I kept expecting Brighton to try and kill one of her sisters, but alas, it never happened.
Instead, poor Annabelle (Rogers) is dying from some intestinal disorder, and her religious family battles with their belief in God as they watch their daughter suffer, only to have a miracle happen and save her life. And just like in Heaven Is For Real, the child in question claims to have gone to Heaven and seen unspeakable things.
The film lost me a few times in its cartoonish attempts to make people seem like assholes. The first time was when I noticed Garner’s best friends resting bitchface when she was called in the middle of the night to watch the other two kids as Garner takes Annabelle to the hospital. The second was when some of her fellow churchgoers actually had a conversation that was basically “She’s been sick a while. Why hasn’t God healed her yet? Maybe it’s your fault. Maybe you’re being punished for your sins. Maybe it’s Annabelle’s fault. She’s being punished for her sins.” Really? I can’t imagine anyone actually ever saying that to someone in a church, because I would burn that church to the ground. That’s so completely not Christian. The third time was the entire “young hot male doctor” character that is just a giant asshole. His character was so poorly written, and the actor playing him is terrible. This film has such a problem with “bad guys” that they seem like a caricature, which distracts from the tone of the film.
However, I did think Jennifer Garner did a good job, and honestly the three girls are all decent actresses. There isn’t a Dakota Fanning here, but I thought they all were fine. I didn’t like the boy in Heaven Is For Real, so this was a step up. Queen Latifah seems almost like an afterthought, but I know her character exists (even if she’s actually white) and this is based on a true story. I just wish they had incorporated her more into Annabelle actually at the hospital, rather than relegating her to her own section of the movie.
The movie does take some liberties with the true story, but none that are too crazy. It’s a decent adaptation, from what I can tell, but just a poorly directed one. I haven’t seen anything else that Patricia Riggen has directed, but I wouldn’t hire her based off this film.
I wouldn’t rush out to see this, but if it happened to be on cable or Netflix streaming, and you were bored, there are worse ways to spend your time.
FINAL GRADE: C+