A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Do You Believe? is a faith-based film from the makers of God's Not Dead; like that film, it has a Christian storyline and overtly politically conservative messages. While there's no sex or language, you can expect disturbing scenes of violence, including several gun shots, a murder, a chase scene between criminals, and a fatal car accident that kills or injures people. While viewers who agree with the filmmakers' beliefs may enjoy the film, others could be uncomfortable with the movie's political agenda and the stereotypical portrayal of atheists and people of color (every young person of color in the film is either a criminal or suffering in some way: a pregnant teen, gang members, and a violent former Marine suffering from PTSD). The violence makes the movie inappropriate for young viewers, but teens in church-going families should be mature enough to handle the content.
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What's the story?
DO YOU BELIEVE? is an evangelical faith-based film from the producers behind God's Not Dead. In Chicago, a dozen characters' storylines intersect literally and figuratively at a cross. Pastor Matthew (Ted McGinley) witnesses an older man (Delroy Lindo) dragging a large wooden cross around the city, asking strangers whether they "believe in the power of the cross of Christ." The old man then stands up to a group of young criminals who are stealing a van, even as one -- unironically nicknamed Kriminal (Senyo Amoaku) -- pulls a gun on him. The pastor is so touched by the man's faith that he hands out small wooden crosses to his congregation the following Sunday. The power of the cross then touches various other believers and nonbelievers, from a homeless mother and daughter (Mira Sorvino, Makenzie Moss); a selfless church janitor (Brian Bosworth); and older parents (Cybill Shepherd and Lee Majors) still struggling with the loss of their daughter to a troubled pregnant teen (Madison Pettis); Kriminal's younger brother, Pretty Boy (Shwayze); an evangelical EMT (Liam Matthews); and two twentysomethings (Alexa PenaVega and Joseph Julian Soria) who meet on a bridge where they were planning to attempt suicide.
Is it any good?
Until recently, most faith-based movies have had to settle for one or two recognizable actors; this one might boast the most familiar group of established actors ever to appear in a Christian movie. Most of them are listed as associate producers, meaning they'll contractually receive back-end profits (perhaps part of the formula to help these movies attract better ensembles?). In this case, the actors all do their best with the heavy-handed script. If it had focused on the characters' stories of love and compassion (the pastor taking in the pregnant teen, the church janitor helping both the repentant criminal and the homeless single mom, the suicidal couple), it would have been an effective story about God's love. But the political overtones and the subtle race issues make the movie more problematic.
It stumbles the most with the EMT's subplot, which stretches the boundaries of believability by stereotyping atheists, unions, and prosecutors. The messages about race are particularly mixed. Although Pastor Matthew's congregation is multicultural, the movie's central steadfast Christians are all white men, and the people of color almost all end up redeemed but dead. Bottom line? Yes, Do You Believe? has an actual narrative, but if you aren't the kind of person who likes seeing literal sermons (as in, actors playing pastors delivering messages from a pulpit), this isn't the movie for you.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the popularity of faith-based films. Do you think these movies are meant for an audience that already embraces their message or a tool for reaching new believers? How do you think the filmmakers' intent impacts the messages they choose to include in their movies?
What do you think are the filmmakers' religious and political beliefs? Do you think they're obvious in the movie? Do you/does your family share in those beliefs?
Are there stereotypes in the film? Who are the role models in this movie, and what do they have in common?
- In theaters: March 20, 2015
- On DVD or streaming: August 4, 2015
- Cast: Sean Astin, Mira Sorvino, Alexa PenaVega
- Director: Jon Gunn
- Studio: Pure Flix Entertainment
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 115 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: thematic elements, an accident sequence and some violence
- Last updated: September 24, 2020
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