In the olden days of 2002, the summer movie season began on Memorial Day Weekend with the release of what industry people (or wags, as industry people like to call other industry people since everyone owns Chihuahuas named Tiny) label “tent-pole,” “franchise” or “Tobey Maguire in Spandex” films. These days, as the strain to release the first grandiose failure of the season has reached Chris-Farley-in-a-tiny-jacket levels, the pushed back into April. Or March if you count Ashley Judd kidnapping rom-coms. Which you should do not.
Along with the explosion of explosion-, halfling- and Robert Downey, Jr.-based offerings, recent summers have seen the (moderately) wide release of so-called faith-based films. Although, if you wish to get all philosophical, all films are faith-based in one way or another – it just depends on where your faith lies. Can I get a Keanu Reeves “whoa” over here?
Anyway, the faith-based film movement has proven rather successful from a profitability standpoint, if less so from a creative angle. No offense to those involved – I understand how difficult producing a movie really is. It just seems like most faith-based films are a bit obvious in their plotting and a touch preachy in their proselytizing. Which makes them no different than standard-issue Hollywood films, only with an over-abundance of gosh-durned, mother-lovin’ sons of biscuit eaters. Apparently, the road to purgatorial cinema is indeed paved with good intentions.
But it needn’t be so. As the recent miniseries The Bible proved, messages that matter can also be entertaining. Especially when produced by Brits. (Granted, I’m only guessing at the awesomeness of The Bible since we haven’t had cable or satellite TV since 2009. I’m also assuming Fabio played Samson because, I mean, come on.) But Bible lovers shouldn’t be resigned to CGI Red Sea partings as their only source of creative entertainment. Or even edutainment, which is actually a myth. Nor does Kirk Cameron need to star in every production. Seriously, he must be getting tired by now, and I’d for hate him to grow weary in his well doing. So here are some loglines – which are even shorter than synopses or treatments – for potential Biblical blockbusters. Some are genre. Some are four quadrant. And if you know what those last three sentences mean and have some cash, give me a shout – one of the following ideas has already been scripted as is ready for you to option.
The Roaring. With the fate of his daughter – and ultimately the world – hanging in the balance, widowed college professor John Michaels awakens his long-suppressed ability to see evil incarnate and soon finds himself the reluctant hero in a race to stop a rogue preacher’s apocalyptic machinations and discover the truth behind his wife’s death. Starring Liam Neeson as the taciturn-yet-deadly-with-a-crucifix Professor John Michaels, Ellen Page as his sassy-yet-vulnerable-yet-sassy daughter Sara Michaels, and Malcolm McDowell as the heretical apocalypse-loving preacher Reverend Parsons. Surprise twist: Rev. Parsons isn’t Catholic! He’s Presbyterian! I know!
My Other Brother’s Keeper. To honor his mom’s dying wish – and avoid a third-strike jail sentence – petty thief Chaz Montague becomes the legal guardian of Nicky, the tween-age half-brother he only half-believed ever existed. As the unlikely duo drive their mom’s ’73 Caprice convertible – and her ashes – from L.A. to her childhood farmhouse in Nebraska, lessons in patience, familial bonds and badger wrestling ensue. Starring Ryan Gosling as the short-tempered-hunk-with-a-heart-of-gold Chaz Montague, Moses Arias as the no-way-is-he-15-urchin-with-a-heart-of-gold Nicky Montague, and Emma Stone as the way-too-good-looking-hitchhiker-with-a-heart-of-gold that charms them both but only Chaz in a mildly PG sort of way. Surprise twist: Ryan Gosling doesn’t brood.
Day of the Harp. Tiring of man’s continuing slide into craven carnality – yet not ready to declare the beginning of the End of the Age – God the Father sends an angel to earth in the form of Roger “Rog” Ziel. A virtuoso harpist for the local philharmonic orchestra, Rog assumes his true calling as the Angel of Wrath at night, sweeping the streets clean of graft and greed. In the process he runs afoul of Melvin “Memphis” Topheles, the local crime boss with connections of the most authentically underworld kind. Starring Chris Pine as the grape-trampling Roger Ziel; Scarlett Johansson as the woman torn between darkness and light, Angelica Buttersworth; and Kevin Spacey as the Kevin Spacey-esque Memphis Topheles. Surprise twist: No Morgan Freeman.
And that’s just three examples. I haven’t gotten to rom-coms, dramas, sci-fi or ripped-off TV shows. But I do believe I’ve successfully proven that it is possible to create entertaining narratives imbued, infused and otherwise inhabited by a Christian worldview without coming across like a bunch of dadgum, joysucking, gosh-durn eggrolls. Personally, however, I will never take offense at being called a biscuit eater. Not even by Kevin Spacey.
Jason Fox would gladly write direct-to-DVD movies starring the dog from Air Bud.