Generally, the purpose of a faith-based film is to reach out to those looking for spiritual guidance. “Do You Believe?,” the latest movie from the company that produced “God Is Not Dead” last year, takes a different approach.
“Do You Believe?” targets those whose faith is more of an act of deceleration than dedication. The film looks at a handful of people who profess to believe in God but might not be living a life to support that idea.
In a spiritual version of “Crash,” 12 people come together – each with a different level of belief. The only common bond for them is a small wooden cross handed out to a congregation by a pastor (Ted McGinley) who realizes that even he might not be living his life as a true believer.
The script by Chuck Konzelman and Cary Solomon cleverly intertwines the lives of the 12 people who appear headed in different directions. Joe (Brian Bosworth) is looking for some peace in his final days. Samantha (Mira Sorvino) and her daughter are homeless. Others are dealing with the grief of having lost a child, rejection by parents, the horrors of war and the deadly nature of gang life.
Juggling so many story lines is a major task, but director Jonathan M. Gunn manages to service all the stories while holding true to the movie’s main message.
It helps that he gets some strong performance, including one surprisingly good effort from Bosworth, whose NFL and film careers burned out decades ago. His portrayal of the reformed convict gives the movie a solid central core.
Couple his work with the usual strong performance from Sorvino and their story line is sold. It gets an additional boost from Makenzie Moss, who plays Sorvino’s daughter. She brings just the right amount of energy and joy to the role.
Alexa Pena Vega turns in a heart-breaking performance as a young woman who has reached her emotional limits because of family issues. Shwayze is equally as compelling as a young man torn between family loyalty and his need for redemption.
It’s the work of Liam Matthews that proves the crowning touch. It falls to him to play a paramedic and family man who is willing to risk losing everything just to remain true to his convictions. Matthews finds a way of playing this man without making him preachy or saintly.
“Do You believe?” commits a few moviemaking sins. The miracle ending doesn’t quite jell with the rest of the grounded script. And having Sean Astin – the major doubter in the group – portray a character named Thomas is a little too on the mark.
But, these sins can be forgiven because Gunn understands the right structure for a faith-based film. It has to do more than deliver a serious message, it must be a good story where people can connect with relatable characters. A heavy handed approach never works.
“Do You Believe?” works because it’s equally strong as a family drama and faith-based story.
‘DO YOU BELIEVE?’
Rated PG-13 | Time: 1:55