A technically proficient, low-budget drama obviously intended to serve the emergent niche market for Christian-themed entertainment, Facing the Giants offers rewarding and uplifting entertainment for the whole family. Director Alex Kendrick takes the central role of Grant Taylor, an underpaid, overworked football coach who worries not only about his job security -- his team has endured six losing seasons -- but also about the financial pressures facing him and his wife, Brooke (Shannen Fields), and the recent discovery that in all likelihood he'll never be able to father children. In his darkest hour, Grant finds comfort and inspiration in the Bible and rededicates himself to God. As a result, things begin to turn around -- both personally and professionally. The worst we can say about Facing the Giants is that it lacks dramatic tension: Once Grant is born again, the obstacles facing him seem to melt away one after another. But the performances of a largely amateur cast are winningly sincere, and the football-game sequences are invigorating.
If you've ever shaken your head at an athlete praising Jesus for letting him catch a game-winning touchdown, meaning implicitly that God favored his team over the other, you may also shake your head at Facing the Giants. Alex Kendrick's Christian film about a woebegone football team, whose coach is also played by Kendrick, is all about thanking God for helping the team right its season and go for the state championship. Religiously tunnel-visioned though it may be, Kendrick's film does have the good sense to be clear that God should be praised regardless of each game's outcome, and Facing the Giants emphasizes that a person's belief in Jesus Christ should combine with a never-give-up attitude, not replace it. What's more, he gets away with everyone spending extensive time on the topic of God because it's a Christian high school where Grant Taylor coaches. But Kendrick doesn't get away with his agenda to convert viewers who haven't already been converted. Christian films are considered by the mainstream -- to the extent that the mainstream considers them at all -- to be preaching to the choir, and proud of it. However, Kendrick clearly wants more than that. He consistently fleshes out the characters by showing them joking around, and he's working with actors capable of a range of emotions, including his own finely acted scene breaking into tears over his failures. But Kendrick hasn't learned subtlety yet, and that's what's divisive about Facing the Giants -- nonbelievers who just want a nice inspirational story will be crowded out by all the God talk. The good news is that Kendrick did get it right in his next feature, Fireproof, in which Kirk Cameron plays the lead, and there's a better balance between the director's religious viewpoints and the universal struggles faced by all human beings.
|Sound:||[Dolby Digital Surround, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround]|