God's Not Dead
What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that God's Not Dead is an earnest, heavy-handed, faith-based movie that responds to doubts that atheists have about God by way of the film's main character, a college student named Josh. There's no cursing or sex and only social drinking by adults, but there is an accidental death and a scene in which a man hits his daughter. Young kids might find the characters' debates around religion and philosophy confusing and too mature to grasp, though older tweens and teens might admire Josh's ability to stand up for his beliefs.
What's the story?
A freshman at Louisiana's Hadleigh University, Josh Wheaton (Shane Harper) attends his first philosophy class, only to discover that Professor Radisson (Kevin Sorbo), an atheist, has a requirement that Josh can't fulfill: He demands that students admit that "God is dead" on paper. Josh, an avowed Christian, won't do it, and takes up the professor's menacing offer to defend his beliefs in front of the class -- and risk failing if he can't convince the professor that God is alive and well. Radisson refuses to be convinced, and Josh and many other Christians in the film are tested by their families, loved ones, and classmates as they figure out how to remain grounded in their beliefs.
Is it any good?
As Josh, Harper has an easy likability about him, making GOD'S NOT DEAD's main character appealing to watch. As the stubborn professor who's testing him, Sorbo is also strong. Bravo to them both. Their committed performances are the best part of the film; its overbearing dogma isn't. While God's Not Dead appears to consider other viewpoints about evolution, religion, and philosophy, it fails to give any other ideas much hearing. Which would be fine if the film weren't presenting itself as a thorough intellectual exploration of the age-long debate about the existence of God. But there isn't much room for dissent here.
God's Not Dead has some powerful messages about faith, devotion, and standing up for your beliefs. Still, it does so by villainizing the opposition to oblivion, marinating the movie in self-righteousness. In this world, intellectuals are the enemy, snobby and dismissive. One particularly discomfiting storyline about a Muslim who secretly wants to convert to Christianity is heavy-handed in its portrayal and trades on stereotypes. (The way an Asian character is depicted also suffers from tropes.) But a cameo by the band the Newsboys is fun and joyful.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about how God's Not Dead relays its specific point of view. What is that perspective? Who is the audience for this movie? How can you tell?
Are all movies designed to convince you of something? What's it like to watch a movie that's promoting beliefs different than yours? How does it feel when you identify with a movie's perspective?
Did you notice the product placement in the movie?
Do you think Josh is a role model? Which aspects of his behavior make him admirable?