Starring: Brett Dalton, Anjelah Johnson-Reyes, DB Sweeney, Neil Flynn, Shawn Michaels
Directed By: Dallas Jenkins
Plot: Gavin Stone (Dalton) is a washed up child star who hits rock bottom, and is sentenced to 200 hours of community service at a church in his hometown. He has to stay with his estranged dad (Flynn), and works with the pastor (Sweeney) being a janitor. Then he finds out about the play they are doing, and falls for the director (Johnson-Reyes), and decides he would really like to be involved in the play for his community service. The role? Jesus.
What Works: Brett Dalton is endlessly likeable in this. If anything, this should serve as a casting video for Dalton, who doesn’t seem to really be doing a lot. He’s got all the charm and movie star looks to have a shot at being a real leading man. He carries this film, which is comprised mostly of C-list actors. I mean, I know DB Sweeney used to be good… but he’s not here. His charm, and the fact that this film avoids over preaching to its audience, actually made this somewhat of a surprise for me. I wasn’t sure I would like this film, and while it isn’t amazing or groundbreaking, I did enjoy watching it and it had its moments. Most of those are Dalton, who really should be given more to do. Casting agents… he’s better than this. He makes every scene work, no matter how silly or poorly written, or who he’s acting against.
What Doesn’t Work: Most of the supporting cast, except for Neil Flynn, who does some good work, are not good actors. They would barely survive a Hallmark film, and really drag down this theatrical release. Also, I hated everytime Dalton looked at his phone, it immediately brought up some weird app that was tracking his community service time by the second. It’s there for effect, I get that, but the audience isn’t stupid. Like, it’s his screensaver or something. The writing kinda borders on Hallmark too, but sometimes it does have its charm. We don’t get a lot of gradual growth from Gavin. He spends most of the movie being unquestioned by his peers, and has a wake up call near the end that signals his actual transformation. I think people would have picked up on his faking a little, and he would have needed to try harder, earlier in the script.
Final Word: Again, I was pleasantly surprised by this. It’s not a great film, but I kinda enjoyed watching it, and it made me notice Brett Dalton, who I hadn’t really noticed before. I know he was on Agents Of Shield, but I can’t really think of anything else off the top of my head. That’s why we have IMDB. He really has everything that we look for in our film stars, and this film serves as a showcase for how much better than this material he is. He carries this film on his back. Not that the film itself is 100% awful. It has it’s own charm at times, and Neil Flynn does a good job in his supporting role. If you’re a strong Christian, you’ll probably like this. If you’re not, you might like this too. It’s not heavy handed or overly preachy. They make his transformation happen without jamming a lot of scripture at you. If anything, it’s like a beginner’s guide to Christian films. It’s the film you start with, before moving on to heavier topics.
Final Grade: C+