Fans of Christian-music star Michael W. White might welcome The Second Chance because it lets White stretch his creative wings and try acting. But don’t count on seeing much of his gold-record singing. If the filmmakers had actually made a vanity piece for White and allowed him to do what he does best, the movie might have been interesting. As it is, White is cramped into an contrived, humorless, insufferable snoozer that preaches to the choir — and will make everybody else run like hell in the opposite direction.
With the filmmakers and most of the cast being first-timers, Second Chance is obviously a labor of love — a half-point for good intentions. Two more points for solid cinematography and a few gritty scenes of inner-city life. But that’s it.
Elderly preacher Jeremiah Jenkins (J. Don Ferguson, Remember the Titans) started his career decades ago at the Second Chance church, which is now located in a run-down area of Nashville. His new church, known as The Rock, is a suburban mega-complex, glittering with TV cameras and maps noting overseas missions. His son Ethan (Michael W. White), a former rock star, is being groomed to take over the profitable pulpit.
Meanwhile, African-American Jake Sanders (Jeff Obafami Carr) is the pastor at Second Chance, where he struggles mightily against the ills of the area’s poverty. With barely concealed hostility, Jake challenges The Rock’s smug white members to come to the ghetto, “walk the streets and listen.”
Jake needs listening lessons himself, since he much prefers throwing his weight around to being compassionate. That virtue is lived by his wife, Amanda Sanders (Lisa Arrindell Anderson, Medea’s Family Reunion), who lovingly cares for the troubled women and children who seek her help; she’s the only person in the movie who consistently follows the concept of “do unto others.” But none of the men give her example the slightest attention.
In fact, the men in this movie don’t pay mind to any women — their world is so myopically male it’s ludicrous. For example, the only thing Jenkins’ loyal wife does in the entire movie is blow out a single candle on a birthday cupcake — and there’s no acknowledgment of all the years she’s stood by her globe-trotting husband and kept the home fires burning. The church’s board of directors is all male — not even a female secretary to deliver coffee — and their idea of taking care of God’s business is to make a profit instead of making a difference. They approve knocking down the gorgeous old Second Chance church building to make a killing on the land. Because it’s a Christian movie, instead of going from bad to worse at this point, all the men try, with varying degrees of success, to give the other men a second chance. Too bad they didn’t just ask the women to show them what Jesus would do.
For those who are interested, there’s a study guide for the film on its website at www.thesecondchancemovie.com. Rated PG-13 for some drug references.
— reviewed by Marcianne Miller