A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that What If... is a 2010 faith-based film in which a greedy and self-centered investment banker who ignored a calling to the ministry 15 years prior is given a second chance by an angel sent from heaven to show him what might have been had he remained faithful to God's plan. While devout Christians may respond positively to the movie's messages of living a Christ- and family-oriented life, others may find the story an amateurish mishmash of The Family Man and It's a Wonderful Life, and some could be turned off by how heavy-handed the movie's messages are. That said, the entertainment and enjoyment of this movie is entirely dependent on your religious beliefs and whether or not you want a movie that validates those beliefs.
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What's the story?
Fifteen years ago, Ben Walker (Kevin Sorbo) left his girlfriend Wendy (Kristy Swanson) and a career in the ministry to become an investment banker. Since that time, he has become successful and quite wealthy, with an equally materialistic fiancée and a brand-new black Mercedes Benz. But this changes when his Mercedes inexplicably breaks down on a country road and he meets Mike (John Ratzenberger), a tow truck driver who claims to be an angel sent to show Ben the error of his ways and what he missed out on when he left Wendy and the ministry behind. Ben is now given a glimpse as to what might have been, waking up as a new minister in a small rural town, with his wife Wendy and two kids. At first, he deeply resents the drastic change from his money-driven lifestyle, but he gradually begins to see just how unhappy he was despite all his wealth and success. With the help of Mike and a certain higher power, Ben must find a way to get back to what God had intended for him all along.
Is it any good?
WHAT IF... is an amateurish and heavy-handed faith-based movie. It contains a predictable storyline that borrows heavily from both The Family Man and It's a Wonderful Life. While devout Christians seeking entertainment that validates their belief system may enjoy the tale, those who are not particularly religious will have a difficult time getting through such a poorly made movie with cheesy dialogue, obnoxiously sappy background music, and excessive preachiness.
This film lacks the overall quality to reach anyone beyond the deeply religious, and the awful storytelling and screenwriting flaws negate any and all efforts at conversion, assuming that is part of the filmmakers' and studio's intentions.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about faith-based movies. Are these movies intended to convert those who don't believe in the religious views being espoused, entertain those who already live according to the religious views espoused in the movie, or a bit of both?
What are the ways in which Christian values and scripture are presented in this movie?
In more conventional "Hollywood" movies, how are religion and the practitioners of religions represented, if at all?
- In theaters: June 2, 2010
- On DVD or streaming: February 1, 2016
- Cast: Kevin Sorbo, Kristy Swanson, John Ratzenberger
- Director: Dallas Jenkins
- Studio: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 118 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: Some mild thematic elements.
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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