FAITH BASED: Trying To Find Comedy In Religion

The genre of Christian Film may not have the popularity of, say, every other film category ever, but to proclaim them as unsuccessful would be a fallacy. Faith-based cinema, although an extremely niche market, brings in hundreds of millions of dollars every year. Maybe not comparable to the major studio productions which have a far more inclusive audience, Christians are known to spend their box office dollars to support like-minded creators who share their similar values. Mind you, the average filmgoer may scoff at the idea of prayer and miracles as a viable catalyst for storytelling, the faithful parlay that into big bucks.

Faith Based, a new comedy from director Vincent Masciale and writer/star Luke Barnett, tells the story of two slackers who decide to make it big by cashing in on the Christian film market and making their own film about a stranded astronaut who says the first prayer in space in order to be saved from a bloodthirsty alien. Take the longline for what you will, it definitely poses a clever enough concept for a goofy comedy nowadays. What needs to be asked is if it works?

Short answer – Sort of.

Hey, I Know You

Throughout the movie, you might find yourself saying, “Where have I seen that actor before?” The cast of characters is a cavalcade of recognizable talent ranging from the always fantastic Lance Reddick, funny man David Koechner, Margret Cho for a quick scene, and a wigged Jason Alexander just to name a few. Every performer does their best with the parts given even if some of the jokes don’t always land with a guffaw.

FAITH BASED: Trying To Find Comedy In Religion
source: Title Media

Not to say Faith Based isn’t funny, but there could definitely have been a few tweaks to the dialogue. If anything, the big sin of the film is the use of interview-style interstitials to further the plot while never setting up why anyone would be talking to the camera in the first place. Everyone gets a turn at telling their story and it serves as nothing more than a quick way to catch the audience up to who is who in the narrative.

Some of the humor, in the beginning, is brash and raunchy when suddenly there is a strange softening of the language around the film’s peak. Such a shift leaves one to wonder who the comedy is aimed at. Anyone who might find it offensive would have checked out at this point and those who expected a filthy comedy are set up for disappointment. Understandably, the tonal shift is meant to match the lead characters’ moral epiphanies toward the finale, though the change comes on a tad too quickly during a seriously soggy third act.

Don’t Be Too Cross. It’s Not That Bad.

Expecting Faith Based to go deep into offensive territory, at least as far as the faithful are concerned, the script plays it pretty darn safe. Yes, the language, booze, pot, and digs at hardcore Christians is ever-present, though the film really pulls its punches once it fully establishes the plot. In fact, the misfit filmmakers have far more redemptive movements than I would have expected. This could be seen as a detriment, for sure, but in a weird way, it seemed like a safer play on the creators’ part to keep the subject light. Not to say the more devout churchgoers aren’t going to have their opinions about the way their community is portrayed, the film does manage to find a balance in how it spoofs the sillier aspects of Christianity without becoming outright vicious.

FAITH BASED: Trying To Find Comedy In Religion
source: Title Media

One of the funnier scenes involves a Christian rock band performing a song about hanging a realistically accurate crucifix on their bedroom wall playing in its entirety through the end credits. I have to say, this little ditty gave me the most auditable laughs out of anything if only for the ridiculousness of the lyrics. If anyone has a problem with anything, my money would be on that.

So That’s What Happened To Kirk Cameron

Honestly, I didn’t dislike Faith Based. Unfortunately, the movie spends too much of it’s opening setting up a gaggle of wacky, nonsense characters with cartoonish backstories only to never truly pay them off in a truly clever way. The comedy is low brow leaving actors who normally would be comedic gold saddled with so-so dialogue. But somehow, I had a decent time.

Did the makers of Faith Based play it safe? For sure. There were jokes to be made and places to go with the premise, but they chose a different path and I can understand why. Religion is a tricky subject to breach in comedy. There are several factors to take into consideration when dunking on what a select few of your audience might actually believe in. Comedy, while subjective, can cut deep if it hits too close to home and unless you have the biting wit of George Carlin or the playful skill of Mel Brooks, taking aim at what someone holds sacred can backfire horribly on a storyteller if they are not careful.

All and all,  the film tries to please everyone while never quite reaching the level of comedy it sets out to achieve. Faith Based isn’t the funniest film you’ll sit through this year, though it might get you through a lazy Sunday with a few laughs.

What are your favorite Christian Film genre films? Let us know! 

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