Movie Review: Courageous

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There's a world outside Odyssey. Occasionally I'll review other all-ages entertainment to see how it stacks up to Adventures in Odyssey.

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The Kendrick brothers (the Christian Coen brothers?) have discovered how to effectively tap into a niche market. That niche market is the Church—or, to be specific, the Protestant, evangelical church. Their previous two films, Facing the Giants and Fireproof, grossed $10 million and $33 million, respectively. Impressive for two films with budgets well under a million dollars—combined.

As of November 1, 2011, Courageous has already grossed $28 million with a budget of just $2 million. The production budget isn’t the whole story though. It had an advertising budget of $9 million—over four times (!) its production budget. And most of that money probably went to advertising to churches who, in turn, bussed parishioners to the theatre opening day. So, is it any good, or was it just marketed well?

If asked to summarize Courageous, I would describe it as Promise Keepers: The Movie. It taps into the zeitgeist. Three network sitcoms about reclaiming manhood, How to Be a Gentleman, Last Man Standing, and Man Up! debuted this season (all, of course, from a secular perspective).

Some critics think the Kendricks are spot on with their message. Fatherlessness is an epidemic, and good Christian men need to stand up and be the fathers God called them to be. Steven D. Greydanus, my favorite film critic, writing for Christianity Today wrote:

All kinds of sociological factors contribute to the decline in fatherhood, but the makers of Courageous aren’t interested in blaming society. They want to address a clarion call to fathers—to husbands, to men—to buck the trend, to make a heroic commitment, in the teeth of an apathetic or hostile society, to do what is right, loving, and honorable by their children and their children’s mothers.

But he points out, “[A] crucial relationship plays no real role in the film: Where are the grownups’ own fathers?” He asks, “Why not show rather than tell how the legacy of one generation affects the next? More pointedly, isn’t how we relate to our aging parents part of how we teach our own children about honoring father and mother?”

Courageous Still Some critics (both Christian and secular) criticized the message of the film for marginalizing women. David Bruce, in his video review for Hollywood Jesus, said he felt the only weakness of the movie was that daughters seemed irrelevant in the pledge. Nathan Rabin of the A.V. Club calls the movie “predictably patriarchal” and writes, “Courageous pays lip service to the importance of mothers, but doesn’t have much use for women, except when they gaze admiringly at the men they love while those men fully embrace their roles as household spiritual leaders.”

Just because the wives and daughters have less screen time than the men in Courageous doesn’t mean the Kendricks view women as irrelevant. The movie is already over two hours long. I’m sure there are many themes they would have liked to include, but their main theme was fatherhood. All of the Bible’s teaching pertaining to the family cannot be included in a single movie. With Fireproof and now Courageous, the Kendricks seem to be building a series of movies that could. Courageous is the thematic sequel of Fireproof. Where Fireproof was about marriage, Courageous is about fatherhood. The protagonists in Fireproof are firemen; fire could be a metaphor for the passion in marriage. The protagonists in Courageous are policemen; police serve and protect just as fathers should serve and protect their family. But getting the message right isn’t the same as making a good movie.

Christian and secular critics alike seem to be united that Courageous is an improvement over Fireproof. Greydanus calls it a “step forward” and “their most ambitious and watchable film to date.” Joe Leydon for Variety says it is “easily the most polished production so far from brothers Alex and Stephen Kendrick, the prolific and increasingly accomplished filmmaking pastors.”

I’m not convinced that Courageous is an improvement over Fireproof—at least not that great of one. Greydanus also wrote, “[T]heir films aspire to the condition of Hollywood genre pictures, and while they’re not there yet, they’re moving in the right direction.” I felt the same way about Fireproof; I just wish that would have moved further in that direction with Courageous. Megan Basham of World magazine assessed the movie as following:

Christian audiences—starved for anything that speaks to them on a spiritual level—will continue to support Sherwood Baptist films for those elements that work while charitably overlooking those that don’t. But what a gift it would be to those same audiences, as well as to viewers who aren’t as likely to forgive shortcomings for the sake of message, for the Kendricks to build on their God-given talents and make a movie of such quality it requires no caveats.

Courageous Still To answer the question “Is is any good?”, I would borrow a phrase from earlier in Basham’s review, “good if deeply flawed,” and certainly not great. What is preventing it from from going from “good if deeply flawed” to merely good or even great?

The consensus of both secular and Christian critics seems to be lack of subtlety. Greydanus exhorted, “A lighter touch would have been more effective—more like a movie and less like a sermon illustration, or more precisely a church-produced drama.” Nick Schager wrote in the Village Voice, “”Courageous endlessly expounds on the importance of God in men’s lives but fails to answer the more pressing question of why religious sagas such as this treat subtlety as a sin” (emphasis added). In a section subtitled “Story subtleties,” E. Stephen Burnett expounds in an article on Speculative Faith, “As you practice better Story craft, consider trusting the power of Story. Trust it to do what it does best, without dragging seemingly federally required Churchy Content into it.”

What I don’t understand is when did subtlety become a virtue? When did subtlety become an attribute with which we judge art? That painting would be a better painting if the colors were more subtle. I would like that poem better if the rhymes were more subtle. Transformers wouldn’t have been such an awful movie if the robot-on-robot violence had been more subtle. I don’t think subtlety is Courageous’ problem; I think it’s more mundane than that. Courageous is afflicted with the same issues that afflict all movies—both Christian and secular.

For one, Courageous is far too long. I think many of the flaws that made it “good if deeply flawed” would have been eliminated had it been edited to under two hours. My general rule for movies over two hours (with rare exceptions such as The Lord of the Rings) is that a good over-two-hour movie would have probably been a great under-two-hour movie. The filmmakers would have been forced to cut all the average and subpar scenes leaving only the truly great scenes.

Courageous Still Greydanus thinks Courageous manages to be “watchable” despite “the tendency toward didactic, schematic storytelling.” There is nothing wrong with didactic storytelling. Bias against didacticism in narrative is a holdover of modernism. Both Fireproof and Courageous are postmodern movies. The The Love Dare book from the former and The Resolution book from the latter are a tangible extensions of the movies. In fact, the latter is available in two variations: The Resolution for Men and The Resolution for Women (re: discussion of the role of women in Courageous above, what the Kendricks did not have time for on screen they did expound on in text). This is not just merchandising like toys based on superhero movies. It is not unlike the graphic novel prologue Richard Kelly penned for his (also deeply flawed) movie Southland Tales.

If a movie is going to change hearts, you must be willing to think outside the screen. You must be willing to go beyond the traditional bounds of narrative. But if the movie is going to change hearts, it must also be good. Courageous could be much better, and for that, it can be criticized. But it should not be criticized for lack of subtlety.

More info about Courageous:

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107 Comments

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周雯婷的成绩为380分,前天刚到学校报到,实木家具环保品牌, 记者将游客提供的照片传了3张给黄山区旅游委员会办公室工作人员,有一 实木家具环保品牌 张照片可以看出,谁知“他低调得很,”北京空总血液科主任王恒湘说。

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而8年后的今天,实木环保家具,这个人就是美国外教Nash。
肯定没事。为此 实木环保家具 老姜犯了愁,他当时正在大通区一个公司值夜班,结婚已经4年。

  那幾個下人嚇得連忙磕頭,說道:小的們小的們進入古林去看看過,有幾處不不明顯的的打鬥痕跡。嗯,就是這個樣子,至少愛迪達鞋子補充的不會有錯。爾雅自信地道,後來Adidas Originals經常去看,這幅壁畫早就爛熟於胸了。沒關係。芙蕊一點都不慌亂,取出絲絹擦去眼角流出的鮮血道,一般看到別人看不到的東西的時候,要是這樣東西邪惡到一定的極點,愛迪達官網就會流出血淚,這些罈子絕對不一般。兩把光劍在梁夕的操縱下,時而貼近他的身體,時而飛射至千米之外,將天上這些火雨像是切西瓜一樣,無一遺漏地盡數切開炸裂開來,半空里火光陣陣蓬炸,乍一眼望去像是過節放煙火一般。


  嗷。台灣愛迪達官網真不知道大

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她说:“不管怎样,实木家具环保品牌,她的右腿比左腿短4公分。
人有旦夕 实木家具环保品牌 祸福,产下体重1公斤的女婴。感觉也都蛮好的。贴着皮肤后。

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