Movie Review: The Second ChanceQuick Plot Summary: A black inner-city pastor and a white suburban pastor come together in this portrayal of inner-city church life vs. suburban "upper class" church life
Suggested Ages: 15+
I have a few beefs with this movie, including one somewhat notable one. But before I get to them, let's start with what's great about this movie, and top of the list is its overall message.
Through a story that melds a black inner-city pastor with his church together with a white pastor from a "rich suburban" church, this is a very challenging movie for The Church, that probably would (and probably should) make much of the American Church feel very uncomfortable. This movie hits close to home, folks, and will really get you to thinking about how much of our Christianity is a "show" vs. how much is really loving and caring for others. This movie showcases some of this stuff in very poignant ways and you might be surprised just how revealing it is, both of the Church as a whole, and of yourself - it might just hit you between the eyes (it did to me). It's so easy to just want to throw money on a problem so you don't have to "get personally involved" - but there's a big difference between handing out money and committing yourself to service - to really living out the servant life of love that we are called to as Christians. That is the core of what this movie is about, which it tells in an engaging and interesting story.
The acting and production quality are good and much better than I expected. I admit to initially being a tad concerned when I saw that Michael W. Smith was playing a lead because in my mind I thought that no matter how great a musician he is, his inclusion as a lead probably was going to mean some pretty cheesy acting. I was definitely wrong - he carried himself just fine, as did the rest of the cast. The story was perfectly believable (which while good of course, given the subject matter, is also sad) and it was clearly well-directed.
Now to the concerns: This is a gritty movie that is not what typically would spring to mind if you think "Christian movie" - it has some bad language and a bit of violence. It is PG-13 for a reason. The language itself didn't grandly bother me (it's not horrible - many PG movies have just as bad) and it is within the context of the inner-city life, but what DID really bother me was that one of the characters doing the cussing was the inner-city black pastor who in many ways the film builds up as someone to look up to. I really see absolutely no movie benefit at all to them having the "man of God" doing cussing (and noted in the movie itself as having a cussing problem), but rather I see it as a strong negative. I know that some pastors cuss, etc. in real-life and I suppose the fact that they are portraying a cussing pastor adds some additional "reality" to the film, but I don't really need or want to see someone on screen that we're supposed to be looking up to (and is busy delivering many of the thoughtful punchlines of the movie) portrayed this way - I see no benefit to that at all. It just muddies (and muddles) things in a way that isn't good. With that said, the problematic language by the pastor or otherwise was relatively little all things considered. I tend to be more sensitive these days to bad language, but this movie didn't leave me feeling dirty in that regards, etc.
My other concern with this movie simply stems from the ending and lack of real resolution. Part of me thinks they did this on purpose to kind of leave the viewer with the feeling that "and on and on this goes"...But what might have been nice artistically or philosphically, wasn't satisfying as a MOVIE ending. Without giving the ending away, although it strongly hints at things turning out well for the church, you don't get to see it. Nor do you get to see what happens to one of the other characters (a teen who got out of a gang) after his living situation changes at the end. It's just that nothing gets fully resolved. You don't see the suburban church board changing their mind (and hearts), and you don't feel an emotional resolution with the characters you've been invested in for 2 hours, and thus, as mentioned, you kind of are left feeling "and on and on everything goes". It's not a horrible ending (I've seen worse) but it just isn't how you really WANT to see it on screen. Then again, life, much like this movie, doesn't always work out how we'd like to see. Sometimes what might be best from an artistic perspective just isn't what your emotions really want to see (feel) happen.
Those two issues aside (cussing pastor and lack of satisfying resolution), this is still a worthwhile movie that you will likely be highly glad you watched, if for no other reason than the great and needed messages it showcases in such clear terms.
Reviewed by Christopher Long,