‘God’s Not Dead’ proves its point

March 21, 2014
Director Harold Cronk with Beth Mueller, manager of the Carmike Harbor Cinema.

Director Harold Cronk with Beth Mueller, manager of the Carmike Harbor Cinema.

Believers and doubters should check it out.

A mostly unbiased review by Rob Alway. Editor-in-Chief.

I headed over to the Carmike Harbor Cinemas tonight to catch the “sneak peak” of the feature film “God’s Not Dead.” The film had its national premiere Wednesday at the Vogue Theater in Manistee. I’ve been looking forward to seeing the film mostly because it was directed by Scottville area resident Harold Cronk.

Cronk signs the cinema's movie poster for "God's Not Dead."

Cronk signs the cinema’s movie poster for “God’s Not Dead.”

Having already purchased my ticket the day before, in an optimistic hope that the 7 p.m. show would be sold out, I arrived just a few minutes before 7. Cronk was in the lobby, talking to movie-goers and signing posters for “God’s Not Dead” and also for the “Mickey Matson” movie series which he not only directed, but also wrote (Cronk did not write “God’s Not Dead.”)

I threw in my typical jabs toward Cronk — trying to be funny — as I walked in. It’s what us Scottville people do to one another (maybe it’s just me). Then, I had to go fill the popcorn bucket.

I also managed to get a couple pictures of Cronk with Beth Mueler, the manager of the cinema. Just a side note, I’m 43-years-old and I can’t remember ever going to a movie in Ludington when Beth wasn’t there — and I’m talking the days when the beautiful Lyric theater was a one-screen cinema, before it was converted into 4 screens, then eventually shut down to make way for the Harbor Cinema complex.

Into the theater I went. The previews had already started — it’s just the way I am but to me, like the popcorn, the previews are part of the experience. I know some people complain about how many there are, but at $9.50 a ticket give me all the screen time I can get.

I was pleased to see that the theater was about 75% full. While for Cronk’s sake I would like to have seen more, I’m a small town person and I like my space in the theater. I also like my top row seat and was glad to see seats available in the top row.

Mid-way through the previews they stopped, the lights came on and Beth came out and introduced Cronk. They then held a drawing for some great little prizes that included dinner at a local restaurant and tickets to the movies, a great little bonus.

The premise of the movie is a college freshman, Josh, enrolls in a philosophy class where the professor, an atheist, insists that the students, on their first day of class, declare in writing that God is dead. If they do so, then the entire class can skip over that whole topic and move on to other things. Josh, out of about 80 students, refuses to sign. He needs to take the class to fulfill his degree requirement, but as a Christian he just can’t make the declaration. The professor strikes a deal — over the next three class periods, Josh must convince his classmates that God is real.

Cronk and Beth Mueller talk to the audience.

Cronk and Beth Mueller talk to the audience.

The decision costs Josh his relationship with his girlfriend, who basically has their entire life already planned out. While they met in youth group six years previously, she clearly has swayed somewhat from her faith walk.

The movie also includes several subplots of characters who end up all being tied in to each other. This was well written and not obvious in the beginning (which I enjoyed — I hate obvious).

Now, I have to give some full disclosure about my objectivity. I absolutely believe that God is real and I absolutely accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and savior. I’ll throw that out to you. But, I also like good film, it was one of my emphasis in college. And, as a Christian I am often disappointed by the poor acting, lousy plot or bad editing of many faith-based films. I can think of the “Left Behind” film series. They were a great idea, but just really lacked something.

Further disclosure, Cronk is a friend of mine.

But, I have to say that I believe this film was well done. The script was well written and the acting was top notch. On a technical aspect, the film was photographed great (I notice those things, like the lighting, camera angles and composition, it’s a curse).

Cronk talks with Donna Clousing and other audience members after the film.

Cronk talks with Donna Clousing and other audience members after the film.

I liked the fact that the film was not afraid to ask the tough questions that many people have about God and Jesus. I don’t want to give away too much, but there is a point in the film when one of the characters made the comment that some of the most staunch atheists are former Christians. I think that is a true statement and I think it’s worthy of discussion and reflection on the part of Christianity.

The film also dares to feature a character who is culturally of another faith but secretly lives as a Christian, and the price that she pays for her faith. In this day and age of political correctness, especially in Hollywood, it was refreshing to see this.

The only part of the film I didn’t really care for was a scene towards the end that featured Willie Robertson from “Duck Dynasty” fame. Willie and his wife, Korie, played themselves in the film. They were featured early on in a scene that included a reporter. While that particular scene wasn’t ultimately necessary toward the outcome of the film, it didn’t really bother me. But, I found the last scene he was in to be rather gratuitous.

The topic of this movie is one that I thoroughly enjoy. To be fancy, it’s called apologetics, the discipline of defending a position (often religious) through the systematic use of information. I also enjoy proving the existence of God through science and through historical facts. At one point the movie cited one of my favorite authors, Lee Stroble, a former Chicago Tribune reporter who was an atheist until he set out to prove journalistically that God didn’t exist. In an effort to prove God’s nonexistence Stroble ended up coming to the conclusion that God is real.

The reality of this movie is that it will probably be seen mainly by Christians. That’s also the shame. Those avoiding this movie are likely those who are very similar to several of the characters, people who have experienced some sort of hurt by other Christians, or have had a tragic life experience, and therefore have convinced themselves that because of the faults of man, God isn’t real.

If that is you, then you should go see this movie.

To keep the discussion going, Cornerstone Baptist Church, located on Nelson Road in Pere Marquette Township, is hosting an afterglow event Sunday at 7 p.m. At that time Cronk will be present to lead a discussion about the movie and what it means to the faith community. In the meantime, head out to the Harbor Cinema and check it out. Showtimes for today are 4:20 p.m., 7:10 p.m. and 9:50 p.m. Saturday and Sunday showtimes are 10:20 a.m., 1 p.m., 4:20 p.m., 7:10 p.m. and 9:50 p.m. The film will continue to play next week.

Well done Mr. Cronk.

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