Facing the Giants

Movie Information

Score:

Genre: Proselytizing Sports Drama
Director: Alex Kendrick
Starring: Alex Kendrick, Shannen Fields, Bailey Cave, Steve Williams
Rated: PG

I couldn’t make it through Facing the Giants in one sitting. The first 45 minutes were quite enough to satisfy me that it was pretty awful. I did, however, go back the following day and watch the rest of it. That didn’t help.

I freely admit that my problems with the film are partly due to the thematic content. I object to its ham-handed, force-feeding approach to Christianity, and I strongly disagree with its brand of theology. As one of those liberal humanist sorts, I have trouble accepting the concept of an omniscient, omnipotent being who made man for no other reason than to praise His glory. Trained parrots could do the same thing. Others will disagree or tell me that I don’t understand the message of the film (or that I am simply so mired in moral depravity that it’s lost on me).

Yes, much great art has been made throughout the centuries for the express purpose of glorifying the Deity (and before that, for the purpose of glorifying other deities). Names like Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci, Bach, Mendelssohn and Bruckner come readily to mind. They created art that penetrated the hearts and minds of humankind — believer and nonbeliever alike.

Writer-director-star Alex Kendrick is not in this league. His interest is in preaching — and preaching to the converted. For Facing the Giants to have any appeal for persons who do not share Kendrick’s beliefs would indeed be miraculous — not in the least because it’s appallingly bad as anything other than a sermon. By the very logic Kendrick espouses in his film — that you will accomplish great things if God wants you to accomplish great things — one can only conclude that, for whatever reason, God wanted Kendrick to accomplish something that can charitably be called mediocre.

Granted, the film was made for very little money and acted by Kendrick and other nonprofessional members of the Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga. The results don’t look bad, but the acting redefines the phrase “amateur night in Dixie.” Still, the real problem lies in the ludicrous screenplay. Even Laurence Olivier couldn’t overcome this cumbersome assemblage of bad ideas wrapped in cliches.

Kendrick stars as Grant Taylor, a perpetually humorless high school football coach suffering from anti-charisma who is shocked — shocked — to learn that after six years of turning out losing teams, the school is seriously considering replacing him. (What did he think was likely to happen?) Worse, his house is falling apart, his car is dying and his sperm count is too low to give his wife (Shannen Fields) the children she wants — in short, everything but the bloodhounds nipping at his heels. All is not lost, however, because the strange old guy (Ray Wood) who somewhat improbably wanders the school corridors (do the parents know about this?) blessing lockers comes to him with a message from God about approaching his coaching task along biblical lines.

Fired up by this timely intervention, Taylor maps out a campaign to revive his career, his team and, in fact, the entire school. “This isn’t just a plan for football. It’s a plan for life,” his wife enthuses. And, of course, things start to turn around. The team gets better and the school becomes a hotbed of kids publicly confessing their sins and getting religion. The central message — aside from keeping yourself pure even while surfing the Web — is that it doesn’t matter whether you win or lose, so long as you do it to honor God. Fair enough, but the film isn’t about to test that idea, meaning that the characters will be rewarded in every capacity by the film’s ending. The film is mute as to whether the other — also presumably Christian — teams are insufficiently devout to merit the same consideration, nor does it address the curious fact that Taylor’s is the only all-white team in the division.

Kendrick’s direction is on par with the script, with all his speechifying being accompanied by close-ups of cast members looking sincere and nodding. This is truly only for viewers in search of a heavy-handed sermon. Rated PG for thematic elements.

– reviewed by Ken Hanke

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress since December 2000. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

5 thoughts on “Facing the Giants

  1. thomasstanford

    This movie is one to watch. We needed this type of movie. The world is full of craziness and terrible things, but for once a movie with a positive message comes out and talks about the faith of religion. Why? is this message bad, I say no, horaay for the good Lord.

  2. thomasstanford

    You could not rate a good movie if you had to you people are so one sided. It is a good wholesome movie with a positive message to todays children. I guess if it would have had nudity in it you would have praised it.

  3. Adam Renkovish

    thomasstanford,

    I admire the effort of this small church to put together a feature length film. I am a Christian myself, and yet, I know a good film when I see one. This is not a good film. For all the effort they put in to making the thing, they forgot to make it “good”. This is the problem with most Christian productions today. They are too sappy, corny, and cliched. Perhaps if they had a better screenplay, things would have been different. As a Christian of twelve years, I know that this is a message that you shouldn’t ram down anyone’s throat. As far as Christian filmmaking goes these days, I’d have to say that the best example that I have seen in years would have to be “The Passion of the Christ”.

  4. Adam Renkovish

    Oh, and even with nudity, this still would have been a terrible film…just thought that I would point that out. Like it makes any difference. “Good Luck Chuck”. Theres an example. All of that nudity. One of the worst films that I have ever seen in my entire life. I wish I could pull an “Eternal Sunshine” and erase that film from my memory. Ugh.

  5. Ken Hanke

    The interesting thing about this concept — from an admittedly non-Christian standpoint — is that, despite the original poster’s assertion, I can’t think of a single movie I’ve ever given bonus points to for skin. In fact, of my current five favorite movies — TOMMY, THE RULING CLASS, LOVE ME TONIGHT, MOULIN ROUGE! and ACROSS THE UNIVERSE — only two have any nudity (RULING CLASS and ACROSS THE UNIVERSE), and it’s of the rather mild variety.

    Can’t say I agree with THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST assessment, though. But that’s a wholly separate issue. GOOD LUCK CHUCK, on the other hand, is an abomination plain and simple.

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