A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that God's Club is a faith-based story that focuses on whether or not a religious club has the right to meet on a public high school campus after hours. Strongly Christian beliefs are strengthened by the use of biblical quotes and references throughout. Legality is not an issue here; the club is allowed by law. Community attitudes, on the other hand, play an important part. In this case, those attitudes are portrayed by some pretty despicable characters. It's also a story about grief, teen depression (Prozac has been prescribed), and bullying. A fistfight between adults, a physical conflict between two teen girls, as well as vandalism and a Molotov cocktail thrown at a residence constitute the violent action. Most upsetting is (spoiler alert) an early fiery car accident that sets the plot in motion: A woman is killed, and the aftermath of the bloody scene and a husband's grief are all intense. The grief stays with both central characters throughout the story. Some insults pepper the teen dialogue: "idiot," "piggy," "moron," "loser," and one use of "hell." The film has a strong religious core. Best for mature teens with families who appreciate the genre.
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What's the story?
In GOD'S CLUB, after a tragic accident, science teacher Mike Evens (Stephen Baldwin) wants to honor the memory of his wife, Christine, by initiating an after-school Bible study class that was her fondest wish. Mike and his daughter Becky (a convincingly real Bridget Albaugh) deal as best they can with their grief and focus their efforts on bringing Christine's abiding faith to others. Though there's no question about the legality of an after-school, voluntary program such as God's Club in a public school, a loud, angry contingent of parents opposes it. Mike does everything he can to make the club sunny and unthreatening, but the hostility grows anyway. The already-contentious debate escalates until violence overtakes any pretense of tolerance. Two mean girls, a troubled boy, and Mike's awareness of his own shortcomings complicate efforts to resolve the hot-button issue.
Is it any good?
Director Jared Cohn and company stack the odds against anyone who disagrees with their faith-based message in this conventional but earnest story. Not a single intelligent voice is raised in opposition to having a Bible club after classes on a public school campus. The mean-spirited, ignorant, and compassionless people who fight our angelic, ever-patient heroes are basically unredeemable for most of the movie. It's hard to imagine that even one person would mock and scorn a recently deceased beloved teacher, wife, and mother, let alone a half dozen. The story is further hampered by some weak performances and the director's ill-advised use of a hand-held camera and slow motion in the crucial climactic sequence. Still, the film should find a sympathetic audience in like-minded teens and their families.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether or not it's important to present two compelling and intelligent sides of an issue that's important to the story. Did the filmmakers successfully make credible both those who wanted the Bible club on campus and those who didn't? Or did they create one-dimensional characters?
What does "predictable" mean when applied to a story or movie? When did you first know exactly how this movie would end? Did the filmmakers provide enough surprises and character turns to make the film suspenseful or satisfying despite its predictability?
Usually the most interesting characters in a mature story are those who are not all good or all bad. Which, if any, of the people in this movie were a combination of the two? In what ways?
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