Wednesday, April 16, 2014

WWJD 2; New Hope; Flywheel

I watched three Christian movies recently: WWJD 2: The Woodcarver, New Hope, and Flywheel.  Here are my thoughts about them.  I’ll include some spoilers when I talk about the movie Flywheel, so be warned!

1.  WWJD 2: The Woodcarver.

This movie came out in 2012, and I presume that it is the sequel to the 2010 movie What Would Jesus Do?, which I reviewed yesterday.  The movies stand apart from each other, however, for there is no overlap between them in terms of characters or setting.  The main similarity between them is that they deal with the popular question, “What would Jesus do?”

In WWJD 2: The Woodcarver, John Ratzenberger (who played Cliff Clavin on Cheers) plays an old-fashioned woodcarver named Ernest.  Ernest mentors a boy who dropped out of school and vandalized a church, and the boy’s parents are continually at each other’s throats and want a divorce.  Meanwhile, the boy’s father works for a lumber company, which is trying to buy out Ernest.

Ernest gently offers the boy and his mother Rita spiritual counsel and advice, based on his Christian beliefs and his experiences.  In one scene, the boy’s father even ends up eating with them, and he remembers how he met and fell in love with Rita: he joined the church’s choir just to meet her, even though he could not sing a note!  The family becomes reconciled.  Meanwhile, Ernest is dealing with his own issues, and, although he shares his wisdom with Rita and her son, he acknowledges that he himself is a work in progress.  Ernest recently lost his wife to cancer, even though they prayed for her recovery, and his faith is being tested on account of that.  Ernest really misses his wife, who offered him guidance and encouragement throughout their marriage.  Ernest also feels guilty about the death of his son: they got into an argument, and the son joined the army and died.

I thought that the movie was good, even though it rushed through some things.  The depiction of mentorship and reconciliation were the best parts of the movie, in my opinion.  Ernest offered support and insight, but not in an in-your-face sort of way.  Moreover, the guy who played the shady Colonel Maybourne in the Stargate SG-1 series has a role in the movie as a school principal!

2.  New Hope.

This movie came out in 2012.  It is about a teenager named Michael whose father is a pastor, and the family moves to the town of New Hope.  Michael is upset about this because it is his senior year, and he was not expecting to spend it trying to fit in among strangers.  Moreover, Michael has to deal with resentment from others at his school.  A basketball star recently committed suicide, and Michael is taking his place on the team, and he is also forming a relationship with the star’s girlfriend.  Michael especially has to contend with the star’s grieving and angry brother, Lucas, who is also on the team.

The pastor in the movie offered good advice about being honest with God and reminding others of their value.  Lucas also made an interesting statement about how people said that he was a loser and he proved them wrong, yet felt a bit empty after that.  My main criticism of the movie is that it dragged on and on.

3.  Flywheel.

This movie came out in 2003, and it was the first movie that was made by the Kendrick brothers, who went on to make Facing the Giants, Fireproof, and Courageous.  The movie was low budget—-it somewhat reminded me of a home movie, albeit not entirely—-but it went on to earn a lot in DVD sales.

In Flywheel, Alex Kendrick plays a used car salesmen, Jay Austin, who sells cars way above their actual value.  Jay is in debt, his marriage is on the rocks, and his son does not want to grow up to be like him.  After watching a televangelist while flipping through channels and talking with his kindly Christian employee, Max, Jay decides to follow God, and he commits the car lot to the Lord and spends more time with his son.  Jay resolves to be an honest salesman, yet that initially comes at a price: he loses two of his salesmen, and he does not make as much money on each sale.  But, after an undercover investigation on the nightly news reveals to the public that he is one of the few honest salesmen around, people flock to him to buy cars, and he can then pay off his debts.  Jay also pays back those he overcharged.  When a TV reporter corners him on TV about his shady past, the people he paid back—-including an elderly African-American woman who rebuked him—-rush to his defense.  Heeding Max’s advice, Jay steps back and lets God fight his battles for him.

Flywheel is an enjoyable movie.  I especially liked the part where Jay gets a bit arrogant after he returns the money and people are happy with him, then he is humbled as he gives a check to an elderly African-American woman and she rebukes him for having taken advantage of people.  The scene in which she later comes to his defense is one of my favorites.

Is the movie believable?  I can understand the objection that Christian movies are unrealistic: that they often depict God providing happy endings to those who follow him, when that does not necessarily occur in real life.  I do find it believable, however, that being an honest business-person can gain a person a good reputation, and that this can benefit the business-person.

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