One thing that I’ve always wondered about Christian films is how do so many mediocre ones get made? Yes, there were a ton of mediocre small-budget indie films. The mainstream genres definitely have more than their share. But if you think about it, the Christian film genre is so small that any mediocrity stands out. Faith Based indirectly posits another theory. Maybe there so much mediocrity because audiences are so eager for content and so easily manipulated by the entities within the film industry and in the church itself.
That’s what two friends Luke (Luke Barnett) and Tanner (Tanner Thomason) are hoping for when they decide to create a Christian film. Faith Based explores the industry and process as satire. The over-the-top, campy, docu-film feel makes Faith Based a bit funnier than it probably should be. The narrative alone is a satirical exploration of the many facets of the religion as well. It leans into the stereotypes, flipping some for a few laughs and possibly thoughtful conversation. This little film is an odd one. I am still not sure if it was political or just a campy comedy.
Hitting the Highpoints of the Stereotypical Christian
Luke’s life is the point of focus as he lives a life full of Christian stereotypes, some of them subverted. For example, Luke is the “loser” adopted kid in the family. Instead of the white family with a Black kid, Luke is the white kid in a Black family. His father a pastor, played by Lance Reddick. Called Pastor Mike, Luke’s Dad helms a successful megachurch. His siblings are successful as well. Luke is the standout.
He decides to do a film because they get tons of money and are always being sought out by the church. Pastor Mike commissioned one recently himself for six figures. Tanner, Luke better looking, and a more centered friend goes in with him on the scheme. Pay attention to Margaret Cho as Jane the studio executive. She gives four requirements for funding a Christian film and each one is exactly what you find in every film from the genre. A conservative celebrity, which will be Luke and Tanner’s childhood idol, Butch Savage. Savage is conservative (loves guns and God) like Jane says. The other tenets are Luke and Tanner’s to work out in the script, which according to Jane doesn’t have to be good.
Making the films turns out to be harder than they thought. The duo gets money for filming after making a short that the church loves. Pastor Mike writes that check but expects greatness that Luke has no intention of delivering. They save by getting actors and a crew from the congregation. The whole thing is a dumpster fire, despite the fact that several of the crew/cast are professionals. They try to offer pointers, but Luke just wants to get done before his dad finds out what’s really going on. The greatest tension builds as the church members working with him wise up (at a painstaking rate) before he has a full film to get back to Jane.
You Decide Whether It’s True Satire or Just Camp Comedy
There is some slapstick to make the humor work, but most of it is in the stereotyping of the church and the incompetence of the two men. At times, this goofy movie is just a setup for an SNL skit that leads into a sharp commentary on how the industry manipulates the Christian film audiences. Although I am not quite sure if Faith Based is meant to be a political film or just an entertaining depiction. Take a look for yourself and let’s chat about it.
Faith Based is on Amazon Prime and select streaming services.
Rating 3 of 5
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