Review: 'Faith Based' hilariously pokes fun at Christian cinema without being cruel
Courtesy of Lone Survivor
“God’s Not Dead,” “Heaven is For Real,” and “War Room” all have a few things in common. Aside from their religious foundation, they tap into a niche demographic of moviegoers and usually make buckets of cash. I can speak to this because I worked at a cinema when “God’s Not Dead” was released and local churches bought out entire theaters on its opening weekend. Personal views aside, most of these movies aren’t very good. They’re preachy, one note flicks primed for the target audience, leaving little room for outsiders to find enjoyment.
So it’s refreshing to see Vincent Masicale’s satirical “Faith Based” poke fun at how religious themed movies sucker audiences across the world. The director, along with screenwriter/star Luke Barnett, both of “Funny or Die” notoriety, have crafted a unique sendup of the ethics that go into making religious flicks. Turns out, all you need is a B-list celebrity (think Kevin Sorbo) the word “prayer” in the title, and $200k. Punctuated by a stellar supporting cast featuring Jason Alexander, Margaret Cho, and Lance Riddick, “Faith Based” has plenty of elements worth rejoicing for.
The film follows two lifelong pals - on the search for salvation - who concoct a plan to produce their own faith-based film solely from their experiences with Christiantiy. For the past decade, Luke (Barnett) has struggled to come to terms with adulthood and spends the majority of his days cleaning swimming pools for rich snobs. He shares a quaint townhouse in the burbs of Los Angeles with best friend Tanner (Tanner Thomason), a fellow slacker who slings booze at a local pub. And though Luke tries to boost his monthly income by peddling weight loss tea supplements, ends are barely being met.
He’s got a dire infatuation with the tea company’s CEO Nicky Steele (Alexander) whose poorly constructed pyramid scheme ropes vulnerable individuals in with aspirations of wealth. Luke’s adoptive father Mike (Reddick), the pastor of a local church, isn’t that taken with his son’s lifestyle choices, and wants him to lock down some form of stability. But it's his talk about the profit margins of faith based movies that inspires Luke’s next conquest: a stab at making the best Christian movie known to man.
Sure, he doesn’t have filmmaking or editing experience, but aren’t some of the best movies made by amateurs with their backs against the wall? Enlisting Tanner and a ragtag crew of bar flies and retirees to get the job done, these two buffoons set out to make “A Prayer In Space” the first of the genre to take place somewhere other than earth; thus putting forth the question of whether or not faith-based filmmakers cherish profits over religion?
But the crew quickly realizes there’s more to making a film than just a concept, they have to figure out VFX shots, production design, post-production, and how to convince D-list actor Butch Savage (David Koechner) to tackle the role of God. You’d assume Alexander's Nicky Steele might play a bigger role in the proceedings, but he does show up late in the game to offer Luke spirited advice on the trials of success. The results of which are quite comical.
Barnett feels right at home playing this sillier version of himself, one that’s an aspiring filmmaker who will move mountains to make his film successful (he and the filmmakers made “Faith Based” as cheap and indie as it gets, a classic case of art imitating life). Barnett’s also funny and brings a catered warmth to the screen, representing someone the audience should want to spend time with. Likewise for Thomason who clearly has a budding chemistry with Barnett and their energy is infectious. Despite the film's obvious jabs at religion, Reddick maintains a semblance of integrity as Pastor Mike. Meanwhile, Alexander has a blast hamming it up as a sleazy business tycoon whose morals are reflected in his outlandish ideas.
“Faith Based” sparked an ire of controversy earlier this year as some conservative news outlets were quick to judge the film without having seen it. No publicity is bad publicity, likely propelling the film onto the radar of those who may not have heard of the film otherwise. Except audiences who take the gamble and see the movie for themselves might be pleasantly surprised at how this sweet-natured indie moves them for the better.
FAITH BASED will be available digitally Friday October 9th.