Sony // 2012 // 114 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron (Retired) // April 9th, 2013
From the author of...Faith Like Potatoes???
When his brother, Buck, dies in a boating accident, young Conrad Jarrett must deal with the fallout, not just from his own attempt at suicide, but at the displeasing attitude of his mother, Beth, and the ineffectualness of his father, Calvin...
What? Wait, wrong Ordinary People? What do you mean? No bitchy Mary Tyler Moore playing against type? No criminally underrated work from Donald Sutherland? No Pratt and her "nice knees???"
Really? Okay, so what is this, again? Oh, it's the semi-autobiographical story of a South African evangelist (Angus Buchan, playing himself) who started a successful ministry on the Continent after failing to make it as a farmer. Eventually, the preacher creates an event known as The Mighty Man Conference...or March...or something like that, and the film's narrative switches over to three individual, based on the truth tales. The first centers around Lucky Nzimande (Lucky Koza) a criminal who happens to be at the wrong place at the right time. He is taken to Buchan's revival by the two cops he tries to carjack. Next, we meet alcoholic André Cloete (Jaco Muller) who can't stand his strict, dictatorial father and lashes out in more and more tragic ways. Finally, there's a mechanic named John Peters (Anton Dekker) who sees his personal life deteriorate to the point of desperation. All find salvation with Buchan...and The Bible.
And there's nary a Jewish psychiatrist in sight (that's a joke, by the way...).
It's really unfair for someone who lacks legitimate faith to review a film like this. After all, the message is strong, centering on how religion and the word of God lead to paths filled with righteousness, repentance, and reward. It's geared toward an audience who is ready to drink such Blood of Christ Kool-Aid, so to speak, while critiquing those who have yet to receive Jesus' personal touch. The men here, all of whom come to conversion with a real sense of urgency and hope, end up finding some manner of peace, even if their stories don't always end on an upbeat or triumphant note.
So how can you criticize it? How do you make a true analytical assessment of this so-called movie's value without either sounding like a shill, or a sacrilegious bore? The truth is, you can't, which makes anything from this point on rather meaningless. It has to be said that Buchan comes across as courageous and convicted, ready to lay everything on the line for his faith, and the three tales told all have meaningful, if manipulative and mawkish, narrative arcs. As with most films based around religion, chapter and verse take precedent over character and creative storytelling. Science fiction can find a way to make parables palatable to the non-fan. Movies based around belief should try and follow the same suit.
As a DVD presentation, the film looks good. The 1.78:1 anamorphic image is colorful and clean and there are a lot of nice details in this polished presentation. The sound side of things is equally excellent. The Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround won't set the audiophile world of fire, but it sure gets the message across. As for added content, there's a long, EPK like Making-of which highlights Buchan, his story, and the reasons behind the film. There is also access to a downloaded, Scripture based study guide for those who'd like to use the movie as part of their preaching/teaching.
Those hoping for something more akin to Robert Redford's dark, brooding deconstruction of '70s suburbia will need to seek out said classic. Angus Buchan's Ordinary People is just that -- one man's vision of a world where the Word of God inspires. If you feel as he does, you'll find it a moving and memorable experience.
A wash -- can't whole-heartedly condemn or compliment.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 114 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Study Guide