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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Faith Based is a comedy about two non-religious men (Luke Barnett and Tanner Thomason) who try to get rich by making a Christian film. While there are some jokes that poke fun at the faith-based movie-making industry, it's not that revealing, nor do the guys have a substantial "come to Jesus" moment (literally or figuratively). Really, it's more about the personal growth and maturation of two immature men who spend their free time smoking pot and drinking with friends (one is a bartender, with many conversations taking place on bar stools while doing shots). Female characters are almost exclusively love interests; one is assumed to be a porn star because she's attractive and works in the film industry. Characters swear constantly, especially "s--t" and "f--k," and one smokes cigars. There's innuendo and a kiss, and an action star is shown in a Rambo-style role where he's firing a machine gun off wildly, but it's over-the-top ridiculous.
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What's the story?
Best friends Luke (Luke Barnett) and Tanner (Tanner Thomason) are in their 30s and still haven't figured out a career path. Luke, who's always looking for a get-rich-quick scheme, realizes that Christian movies seem to be consistent moneymakers, despite their inconsistent quality. So, even though they know nothing about filmmaking, the secular roommates set out to make a FAITH BASED film.
Is it any good?
What starts out with a great premise, hilarious dialogue, and the promise of being a sparkling debut for the film's writers-producers-stars fizzles out by not connecting the dots. The idea behind Faith Based, on its surface, seems solid, especially for those who know the entertainment industry: Yes, some faith-based films have disingenuous origins. Evangelical Christians are sometimes financial targets for would-be filmmakers who can't find another way into the industry; persuading them to finance a film that will spread God's word is a whole lot easier than asking a wealthy investor to bet on a lofty idea in a crowded marketplace. While Barnett and Thomason's script dances around this idea by showing their characters pursuing this path, they're such likable miscreants that the ickiness of what they're doing doesn't truly sink in.
They meet with a foul-mouthed, impatient acquisitions executive at the fictional ChristFlix (a zesty Margaret Cho) who lays out the way that the faith-based film distribution model works, but these insights are taken from empirical assumptions rather than any real understanding. Tanner's ex-girlfriend works in the industry and helps the guys out because she's still attracted to Tanner's abs (!), and so viewers get the most basic primer on the stages of film production. Some other intriguing concepts arise: Luke is a multilevel marketing salesman for herbal tea, and for a second it looks like the movie is going to cleverly compare that to the church being a pyramid scheme, but it doesn't happen. Then, as Tanner finds love and happiness through the ruse of attending church, you start to wonder: Is this movie actually going to show that faith can be found in community and service -- is it really a faith-based film wrapped inside a cynical look at faith-based films? NOPE. It drops the thread on that idea, too. And all of the front-loaded snark and winks that rev up the comedy end in an earnest shrug. Faith Based will be watched because of the promise of its concept, but it doesn't deliver. It's not satire, and it's not parody, but it is self-deprecatingly honest. Ultimatley, this is about two doofuses who want to break into the film industry, so they amateurishly and insincerely make a movie based on films of faith -- and that, they do.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about faith-based films. Do you think the claims about them made in Faith Based are accurate, or based on assumptions? Do you think this film hurts or diminishes the faith-based film industry?
Is this movie a satire, parody, or spoof? What's the difference between the three?
The movie's plot involves getting big stars in a low-budget first film. How do you think Barnett and Thomason secured Margaret Cho, David Koechner, and Jason Alexander's participation? Which roles would you consider cameos versus supporting roles?
How are drinking and marijuana use depicted? Is substance use made to look fun, or is there an implied judgment about people who gather at bars nightly?
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