If you are familiar with the work of the Kendrick Brothers and Sherwood Pictures (‘Flywheel’, ‘Facing the Giants’ and ‘Fireproof’) then you will know what to expect from their current DVD ‘Courageous’. The theme this time is fatherhood with the focus on four different fathers, three of whom are in the local police department. Again there is the Albany, Georgia backdrop, the focus on several different characters, the gentle and attractive humour, people praying and being converted and the positive small town American charm. Perhaps the effort to be multicultural and multisocial is more obvious. As ever, the acting is good, the storyline well written and the production values high. The budget was up fourfold this time, to $2 million dollars (but quickly recouped many times over at the box office). However, the project was, as ever, bathed in prayer, involved many extras from the local church, relied on volunteers and has a credit list that still includes people like babysitters and caterers, again from the local church. The film actually ends with a Father’s Day service at the Sherwood Baptist church.
So, a film made by Christians with the laudable aim of drawing attention to fatherhood and what a crucial role fathers can have on the rising generation. What’s not to like? Well, it was a little long I thought. It is relentlessly didactic and even if you agree with the basic premise you might find it a little irritating. The fathers in the film decide to show what committed fathers they are by signing a pledge and making a public commitment. One father gives his teenager daughter one of those purity rings that have been so popular and controversial in the States. All very American and fair enough for an American film, perhaps. My real fear, however, is that with the title courageous the film is suggesting that all we fathers need to do is to try a little harder, spend a little more time with our kids and everything will be dandy. It is difficult to say whether the problem lies in the Kendrick brothers theology or the medium itself. When you write a story or make a film then you are in a sense acting as God. There is no failure on the part of the writers to introduce conflict or to suggest that being a father is easy. Nevertheless it would be very easy to watch it and even with the closing text in your head (Joshua 24:15) to think that all we need to do is try a bit harder.
When I was at university studying English I wrote essays that chiefly aimed to convert the lecturer. I now see that was a mistake. That is not what an academic essay is intended to do. Watching and making feature films is surely not a sin. However, we must always remember that Christ conquers sin and wins hearts to himself through preaching not through feature films. Perhaps next time the Kendricks, who are undoubtedly good story tellers, will try and be more subtle and aim more at entertainment rather than trying so hard to convert us all.