“A Christian film that pokes fun at Christian culture.” That was how my friend described the soon-to-be-released movie, “Believe Me,” which previewed at the Dallas International Film Festival in April.
On the one hand, I thought it sounded provocative and maybe a little dangerous. On the other hand, I wondered, “Hasn’t that already been done? What’s the point?”
I didn’t realize at the time that “Believe Me” is the newest film being produced by Lascaux Films, the group neighbor Gary Cogill recently joined after leaving his 24-year career as a film critic at WFAA-TV. So when Cogill asked me to preview the film, I was surprised and happy to oblige.
The film was created by Riot Studios, the same Dallas-based folks who made “One Nation Under God” and “Beware of Christians.” But unlike those, “Believe Me” is a feature film. It was directed by Will Bakke, produced by Alex Carroll and written by Bakke and Michael B. Allen.
I knew nothing about the film going in, other than my friend’s brief sentiments. I’ve been to my fair share of Christian movies, so I was fully prepared for one of two things: A one-and-a-half-hour barrage of faith shaming and ridicule, or an embarrassing attempt at Christianese humor complete with an awkward “inspirational” ending. Or worse, a combination of both.
I brought a hoodie, just in case I needed to hide inside it. But as soon as the film began, I knew I wouldn’t need it. The acting is solid and the humor is relatable and funny. I felt myself relax as I settled in to enjoy the rest of the film.
Without giving too much away, the set-up is a comedy about four college guys who pose as Christians in order to raise money for a fake charity with the intent of cutting themselves a large portion of the profits.
In order to fit in with the Holier-than-thou Jesus culture, they have to school themselves on what to say and do. That is where the “making fun of Christian culture” comes in, which surprisingly isn’t the most provocative part of the film because it manages — in my humble opinion — to find the balance between being appropriately over-the-top in some areas and spot-on in others, without being needlessly mean.
The most provocative part of the movie goes much deeper than humor, when it toys with the concept of whether or not people actually want to do good, or if they just want to feel like they’re doing good. Do people actually want God, or do they just want the God experience?
I won’t give away the ending, but I will say it’s partially what you expect, but it also pulls back to allow the audience to determine the answers to the aforementioned questions.
In the end, some people will probably be offended by the film and others will probably roll their eyes, but somewhere in between, a lot of people will enjoy the humor and appreciate the quality of a film that expertly handles a very tricky topic about faith.
Also, Alex Russell’s dimples? Sweet Baby Jesus.
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