A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that I'm in Love With a Church Girl is a faith-based film about a former drug dealer who turns his life to God with the help of his Christian girlfriend. Based on the life of pastor and former California drug smuggler Galley Molina, the movie was produced not just to entertain but to evangelize, so the main message is how even a former criminal can find forgiveness, acceptance, and love through God's grace. There's no language or sex scenes (although there are a few chaste kisses and mentions of sex), but there are a few moments in a nightclub when grown-ups drink alcohol, some overt brand placements (mostly cars), and a couple of moments when criminals or cops wield guns.
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What's the story?
Miles Montego (Jeff "Ja Rule" Atkins) has everything a former drug kingpin turned concert promoter could imagine: a shiny black Bentley, an 8-bedroom mansion, a close crew of friends, and the attention of any attractive woman who crosses his path. One day he spots a beautiful woman at a red light and comes across her at his financial advisor Nick's (Vincent Pastore) party. Nick introduces him to Vanessa (Adrienne Bailon), a church friend of his wife's, and explains that she's very devout. Smitten, Miles flirts with Vanessa, who is interested in him -- if he's willing to start going to church with him and open his heart to faith. With the DEA, led by Agent McDaniel (Stephen Baldwin) on his case, Miles has to decide whether he's willing to let Vanessa and God change his life.
Is it any good?
Based on the life story of Galley Molina, a former Northern California cocaine dealer who converted to Christianity in prison, the movie has all the elements of a compelling "testimony." It's the tale of how a criminal turned to the Lord. As a ministry tool in evangelical churches, this movie will no doubt be successful in sparking conversation about the power of God, and how no one is too sinful to be saved. Christian audiences looking for a movie with an inspirational story about the redemptive power of believing will be pleased with the production values, the recognizable cast, and the overt religious messages.
Secular audiences, however, will not be pleased with this movie. It's overlong (two hours) and overly sentimental, with Job-like disasters befalling and testing Miles (first his mother dies, then his beloved Vanessa lands in a coma after an accident, and then the DEA rounds up and arrests his crew). The acting is fine, but the dialogue is heavy-handed in its mission to preach and is formulaic, amateurish, and unbelievable. Even if you already read the Bible and attend church regularly, this sermonizing story may not resonate as a film but more as a Sunday School lesson.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the intersection of faith and entertainment. What do you think of this movie's positive messages? What about the movie's entertainment values? Can you like one aspect and not the other?
Do you think this movie will only appeal to Christian audiences? Who do you think will most enjoy this movie?
Ja Rule is one of many rappers who've transitioned to acting. How do you think he fares?
- In theaters: October 18, 2013
- On DVD or streaming: January 14, 2014
- Cast: Adrienne Bailon, Jeff "Ja Rule" Atkins, Stephen Baldwin
- Director: Steve Race
- Studio: Vivendi
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 115 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: thematic elements, a scene of violence, some suggestive content and brief language
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