God’s Not Dead 2 — unfortunately not titled God’s Still Not Dead or God’s Not Dead Again — doesn’t involve an unbeatable, unstoppable rampage by a Jason Voorhees-like God bent on destruction and propagandizing Christianity. Alas, that might be fun, something God’s Not Dead 2 has no interest in. Instead, it’s a long-winded, paranoid screed, part courtroom drama, part stacked-deck argument. This is a film aimed solely at a Christian audience. Because of this, like so many strictly Christian films, there’s little concern over what one might call traditional cinematic qualities — acting, writing, style, an amount of entertainment value. Instead, the sole focus is The Message and how big, shiny and overt it can be and how much Christian panic the film can stir up.
This film’s predecessor, 2014’s God’s Not Dead (can we go without one movie having a sequel), went after the evil, mustache-twirling atheist professors squeezing Christ out of our nation’s universities. Part two takes a look at the public school system, as teacher Grace (Melissa Joan Hart) gets in hot water when she compares Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words to those of Jesus. Thanks to a nasty cabal of school board members and our country’s great bogeyman, the ACLU, gnashing and wailing and wanting Grace (very subtle symbolism, by the way) sacked for her words, she turns to Tom (TV actor Jesse Metcalfe) a lawyer and atheist (one of the good ones, certainly) to save not only her job but to defend religious freedom in America.
This is done — at least in the way the film lays it out — in a specifically dishonest manner. It’s a decidedly unbalanced affair, with the scheming atheists who tempt high school students with Ivy League educations and rail against Christianity on TV. The film’s Christians, on the other hand, just want to have their faith without their children being cursed and yelled at by angry heathens. It’s all skewed out of whack, especially since these roving gangs of godless intellectuals are roaming around a decidedly Christian Arkansas.
The whole thing feels reckless and phony, exaggerating the state of things and deforming the arguments of its opposition. And even then, the film fails to be interesting or entertaining, with the film’s cast of retreads and director Harold Cronk’s decidedly inert (or lack of) style, all of it aggravated by a running time 30 minutes too long, mixed in with a whole lot of feckless talking and little else. What’s amazing is none of this matters. God’s Not Dead 2 — with an intense focus on a core audience — is critic proof and since it’s based on the kernel of the idea that Christians are being systematically targeted by the godless establishment, so anything I say about the film can also be easily dismissed. Who cares, then, if the film is drab and chintzy and achingly dull? Rated PG for some thematic elements.