Tag Archives: faith based films

Do Dream It, Be It

The Secret: Dare to Dream

by George Wolf

It might be a different type of faith-based flick, but Dare to Dream most definitely earns my usual disclaimer: judging these films is less about what they are preaching, and more about how well they tell a story.

Here, the gospel is the Law of Attraction, and the storytelling is unattractively dreadful.

The Secret first arrived nearly 15 years ago as a documentary and self-help book, both written by Rhonda Byrne, and each detailing how positive thinking can directly influence your life and bring you whatever it is you visualize.

Director/co-writer Andy Tennant (Hitch, Fool’s Gold) visualizes a narrative treatment that finds Vanderbilt professor Bray Johnson (Josh Lucas) ignoring hurricane warnings and driving down to New Orleans with an important message for one Miranda Wells (Katie Holmes).

Miranda is a widow with three kids, a boyfriend (Jerry O’Connell), and character development consisting of a succession of old graphic tees. She finds Bray before he finds her, by rear-ending him in traffic. Bray’s original mission is quickly sidetracked, and soon he’s fixing Miranda’s car, the hole in her roof, and whatever else his laid-back, dimpled philosophizing can help with.

Even before this handsome stranger effortlessly fascinates the wide-eyed Wells children with an example of how magnets work, not a lick of this bears any resemblance to real life.

Paper-thin characters recite banal dialogue carrying all the depth of a pop-up greeting card. Family strife about storm damage and money trouble is only dire enough to be a manufactured setup for Holmes to give a cute sigh and wonder, “What now??” while her kids pine for a computer or a pony.

Bray’s mission is never in doubt, and the film’s ultimate resolution becomes a tidy, manipulative pinch from the Nicholas Sparks playbook, right down to the throwing of a shameless trump card.

Whether you think The Secret is nothing but entitlement masquerading as feel good drivel, or a truly uplifting approach to finding happiness, a resonant film needs an attraction beyond preaching to the converted.

Or does it? Dare to Dream doesn’t really seem interested in finding out.

Miracle on Ice


by George Wolf

As the faith-based genre has grown in recent years, many of the films have suffered from a frustrating lack of respect for their target.

Just hammer home a message for the believers, and they won’t mind if we really don’t worry too much about the rest of it, right?

Breakthrough gives that trend a refreshing buck, surrounding its incredible true story with solid performances, steady direction and more than a few moments of thoughtful, nuanced writing.

In January of 2015, Missouri teen John Smith fell through thin ice on a local lake. After an hour with no vital signs, he suddenly showed faint signs of life.

His doctor’s notes read: “Mother prayed.”

But beyond just a testament to the power of prayer, Breakthrough works as well as it does thanks to a commitment to the strength of John’s mom, Joyce Smith, and the touching lead performance from Chrissy Metz (TV’s This Is Us).

Though the Smith’s close-knit neighborhood is presented in broad strokes of idealism, Breakthrough hits a nice groove with the relationship between Joyce and her pastor (an engaging Topher Grace).

Wary at first of his haircut and attempts to bring “hip” to the church, mother and pastor bond as John (Marcel Ruiz) struggles for life, creating a nice parallel to how the film itself seeks to broaden the faith-based reach.

Director Roxanne Dawson and writer Grant Nieporte (both TV veterans) can’t entirely keep the heavy-handedness at bay, but they are able to find some genuine moments of authenticity. Even a late nod to the “Why him?” crowd, while not fully explored, lands as a worthy ambition.

It truly is an incredible survival story, and by grounding it in the spirit of a distraught mother, Breakthrough finds some solid ground.