Disclaimer: This movie made me irrationally angry (spoiler alert), so this review is going to be much more foulmouthed than typical. My apologies.
What Did I Know Going In
- It's a Christploitation movie.
- Jesus was apparently a swell guy.
- Looks like there's no budget, but the camera work is actually crisp and fluid.
- The credits haven't ended and this is already some of the worst acting I've seen.
The Plot, As Far As I Can Tell
Jesus saves literally everything, no matter how complicated, difficult, or multi-layered the problem might be.
The Rest of the Plot
Cliff is a widowed woodworker who spends his twilight years missing his deceased wife and going to church. It's a humble life made interesting only by his work, which he enjoys with the life-affirming grace of any hardworking American man.
He suddenly collides with another family in his town after a troubled youth named Matthew, in a fit of petulance, smashes up the local church. Matthew is angry with God, you see. His parents, Jack and Rita, fight all the time and it seems like they're heading toward divorce, so Matthew prayed to God to keep his parents together. Since that didn't work, he feels like God has shunned him, so he felt justified in spray-painting "Liar" on the side of the church and destroying some wood panels around the entrance.
Well, as luck would have it, Cliff was actually the one who first made those wood panels almost forty years ago, so the Pastor asks him to recreate them. It wouldn't really be too big a deal except that the Pastor is arbitrarily on a tight deadline to have the church repaired, and this creates a gratuitous clock for Cliff to fight with.
Coincidentally, Jack is also doing repairs on the church, along with his business partner, Jerry. Jerry has asked the Pastor to buy some - gasp - prefabricated wood panels instead of getting Cliff to carve new ones in order to keep costs low and let the project move forward more quickly. The Pastor is reluctant to do so, but he has promised Jack and Jerry that he'll go with their plan if Cliff can't deliver within two weeks.
Jack tries to get Cliff to just give up on his wood project - he even goes so far as to buy out Cliff's contract entirely, which means Cliff would get paid for doing literally nothing - but Cliff declines. He enjoys his work and finds too much satisfaction in a job well done.
Meanwhile, Matt has to do some community service to atone for his vandalism. Mainly his job is to paint the church, but in a chance encounter with Cliff, he suddenly and inexplicably becomes fascinated with wood, and then with Jesus.
(I'm jumping ahead here, but... this is really, really stupid. The whole point of the movie is that Matt and Cliff form an unlikely friendship, but it's based on randomness. Cliff says something about wood grain and Matt sneers at it, and then for literally no reason whatsoever turns around and says, "Gee! Wood is amazing! Let me be your apprentice!")
Cliff takes Matt under his wing and shows him how to carve wood, and then teaches him that Jesus was a really fantastic guy who allegedly also worked with wood. Matt's pretty interested, especially when Cliff teaches him a magic trick: any time you're about to do make a choice, ask yourself, "What Would Jesus Do?" and then do that. This will fix everything without fail.
Matt miraculously turns around becomes a preppy little 1950s do-gooder who wants to help little old ladies cross the street and make soup for orphans. He decides to live with Cliff for awhile to sort out his life, and Rita and Jack reluctantly allow him to do so because it seems like Cliff's helping. Then eventually they both quit their jobs and come over to live with Cliff and help him make wood. (THIS ACTUALLY HAPPENS.) Cliff says some more stuff about how their marriage would be fixed if they just devoted their time and energy to Jesus, so they do, and Jesus Jesus Jesus eventually everybody's happy and they have no problems, except for being unemployed.
The Things I Liked
I guess it was lit well?
The Things I Didn't Like
Oh, God. Where do I begin with this?
I really did not expect to get as angry at this movie as I did. I'm familiar with the concept of religious films and I know that I'm not exactly the target audience, so it's a little bit unfair for me to watch and shit all over it.
But... holy fucking fuck Christ fuck on a cross shitburgers, what the fuck is your fucking problem, movie?!
Is this really how all religious movies are? And if so, does anybody else realize how fucking harmful this shit is? Showing this to a religious person is like giving heroin to the homeless.
It's so incredibly simplistic, narrow-minded, and exclusionary of all reality I just can't believe this is real. Look, I know religious people. Some of them are friends. (Maybe not after they read this, but still....) Some of them are just family that I feel obliged to hang out with once in awhile. But they are reasonable, generally rational people with actual dreams and responsibilities and human personality traits. They're not just puppets with Jesus's hand up their asses who squawk about going to church every five fucking minutes.
There's not a single moment in this movie that tries to build drama using actual human emotions or experience - all drama is simply rooted in, "Is Jesus your main thing?" and all resolutions are simply, "Pray to Jesus!" This is not how actual Christians live their lives. If you are a Christian, don't you find this kind of one-dimensional fart-wafting insulting? I mean, I gave up that faith decades ago, and I'm fucking offended by it.
Rita's angry with Jack because he prioritizes work over his family. The solution? Prioritize Jesus first. HOW THE FUCK IS THAT A SOLUTION?! You're still putting your wife and son second, you lousy shithead! The solution isn't Jesus - the solution is to just stop being a fucking douchebag and pay attention to your fucking family!
Rita is upset that she doesn't have the satisfaction of gainful employment - a reasonable request in life, and one that Cliff surely knows all about since the entire movie is based on his persistence in being a woodworker. But the movie paints this desire as selfish and even petty when Rita has it (but it's totally cool when Cliff has it), since Rita's desire to work has turned her away from the Lord - so naturally, the only solution is for her to quit. WHY?! Does Jesus want her to not be able to feed her fucking kid?! Who thought that was a good idea?!
And don't get me started on the bullshit about Cliff's dead wife. He's despondent because his wife died of cancer and God didn't answer his prayers to cure her. (Spoiler: The solution isn't prayer, it's medicine - and sometimes not even that. Sometimes shit just happens.) And the Pastor just tries to comfort him by saying that "the Lord called her home," which may be just about the worst thing you can say, with the possible exception of "God thought it was funny." Cliff at first seems annoyed by that, but then in the very next scene seems to have forgotten that his inner turmoil was an engine for his character, since he spends the rest of the movie Jesusing out about Jesus and Jesus.
You know, even in action movies, where the focus is on finding new and interesting ways to kill people, there isn't a death in every single scene. You guys can shut up about the JC for a goddamn minute and actually talk like people.
Here Are Some of My Notes While Watching
- Why the fuck is Cliff telling Matt to pray if he literally just sneered at prayer when it didn't work for his wife?
- I don't understand religious movies. You're making no attempt to win me over, so are you quite literally just preaching to the choir?
- So... there's actually no point to Cliff being a widow, is there?
- How does a teenager in America not know who Jesus is? Come the fuck on, movie.
- "Hey, now that we talked about Jesus for a little bit, I realize my decision to drop out of school was flawed."
- This is so much worse than I expected.
- Cliff had a good marriage. I bet Jesus helped.
- Oh, hey! "We had the Lord to guide us." What a fucking surprise.
- CHURCH ISN'T THE ANSWER. HIM NOT BEING AN ASSHOLE IS THE ANSWER. Jesus Christ.
- Mom got fired in order to carve wood. That is seriously supposed to be a good thing.
- Cliff asks if Matt wants to go back to school "for yourself." That doesn't sound very Jesus to me, buddy.
Would I Recommend It
What Do I Think the Prequel Was About
Probably some other dickwads with a cross and fake problems. I don't even care anymore. This is bullshit.
What Should the Next One Be About
First of all, no one should ever try to make another one of these fucking things. The world would be much improved if we could somehow scrub this one from existence.
But if you're going to make another one, go big. Here's my pitch:
Satan gets arrested for drunk driving and has to coach a little league team, the Li'l Devils, as community service. He has a hard time of it until a kindly old black man tells him he should ask, "What Would Jesus Do?" So Satan prays really hard one night for guidance, and Jesus comes down and says, "I've been waiting thousands of years for this."
They make up and the Li'l Devils win the big ball game in the end, and the joy of the Devils at their victory encourages Satan to repurpose Hell into a Christ Rehabilitation Center, which makes more sense than Hell, anyway, and the world is saved at last.
Or is it?! Just as they're about to break ground on New Hell, a rift in the sky opens and the Elder Gods start to spawn forth. Satan turns to Jesus and says, "I think we're in big trouble." Then Jesus says, "You know what I would do?" and he puts on a pair of sunglasses and adds, "Kick some ass." They fist-bump and charge after the Elder Gods, and "To be continued???" shows up on screen.