Starring: Sean Astin, Elijah Alexander
Directed By: Kevin Downes
Written By: Dave Christiano, Rich Christiano, Greg Mitchell
Running Time: 1 Hour 20 Minutes
Not Rated (Although Content is PG Equivalent, for Thematic Material)
Plot: A youth group leader tells the story of Hosea while on a camping trip with his church’s teens.
LANCE’S TAKE: EXODUS
When it comes to creating faith-based films, Rich and Dave Christiano are arguably two of the most experienced guys in the business. And if you like movies that are loaded to the gills with Scripture and heavy-handedness, then you’re bound to enjoy their vast selection of DVDs.
Their film Amazing Love is no different, except that it features Lord of the Rings and Rudy star Sean Astin in its lead role. Now, even though Astin is an extremely talented actor, the material and direction he’s given here almost make him look like an amateur.
Not to mention the rest of the very weak cast, especially the teenagers that Astin’s character is supposed to be leading during their camping trip. None of these teens mesh well together, and with all of their flimsy dialogue, it almost feels as if you’re watching a children’s play…only this isn’t as entertaining. Plus, the very idea of a group of modern day adolescents listening to a lengthy Bible story about a lesser-known Old Testament character without getting distracted even once (especially when one of them is addicted to his portable gaming system) is really farfetched.
I will say, though, that the Hosea flashbacks are pretty good. Overall, they’re decently acted and they feature some nice camera work. The production value is really heightened in these scenes, and the story actually becomes somewhat enjoyable. That is, until we randomly cut back at various times to the irritating teenagers gathered around their campfire. It’s during these moments where hokey questions are asked and the teens offer their own “insightful” thoughts as to what’s just happened to Hosea. It’s as if the viewers at home don’t have any common sense and can’t figure out what’s going on, so these annoying kids are sent in to spell it out for us.
And since the plot of Amazing Love is about a youth leader sharing a Bible story, it’s understandable that there’s going to be a fair amount of sermonizing involved. But shoot, even the instances where everyone’s just hanging out are crammed full of preachiness. The heavy-handedness in this film just adds to the level of aggravation you’ll probably be experiencing as your level of patience dwindles.
Now, if the filmmakers had just focused on Hosea’s story instead of throwing in the unnecessary camping trip, Amazing Love could have been a really good picture. But sadly, that’s not what happened, and as a result, Amazing Love is amazingly bad.
I obviously don’t have much love for this film, and encourage you to just read the story of Hosea for yourself when you get the chance. Amazing Love gets a hefty “Exodus” from me.
MARY’S TAKE: EXODUS
Amazing Love is a movie I have mixed feelings about. I didn’t have high hopes for it from the beginning, because I’m not a big fan of stories that are split into scenes from the past and present. And overall, I didn’t like the way the filmmakers pulled it off. So, for the sake of this review, I’m going to start off by critiquing the past and present scenes separately.
The scenes of Hosea (a.k.a. “the past”) were pretty well done. If the entire film had been the story of Hosea, I would have enjoyed it much more (aside from the actors’ beards being so obviously fake). The acting wasn’t the best I’ve seen, but I have to admit, I did get drawn into what was going on.
However, the scenes of the youth group (a.k.a. “the present”) weren’t nearly as entertaining; they were overacted and unrealistic. I’ve worked with youth groups and children’s ministries in the past, and I couldn’t relate at all to the way these parts of the plot were portrayed.
That being said, I do think tweens (8- to 12-year-olds) would enjoy this movie if it were made up of only the youth group scenes. After all, these moments do have a Disney Channel/High School Musical feel to them.
It’s hard to give Amazing Love a fair rating, because it really depends on the viewer. But when you take the film as a whole, I have no choice but to give it a high Exodus rating.
How would you rate this film?