Case Number 20632: Small Claims Court

WHAT WOULD JESUS DO?

Phase 4 Films // 2010 // 88 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // February 3rd, 2011

The Charge

It's time to ask a simple question.

The Case

A homeless wanderer (Jon Schneider, Smallville) makes his way into a town that's on the cusp of being sucked into the belly of Hell. A shifty land developer-turned-mayoral candidate has hatched a plan to buy a local church and turn it into a casino. This dastardly villain feels threatened by the wanderer for no discernible reason and dispatches a goon to beat him into a coma.

Which happens, but not before our grubby, unshowered hero transmits some much-needed philosophy to four people who are at a crossroads in their own lives: 1) the minister who lost his family in a car accident and bums out all six of his congregation members with his agnosticism, 2) the editor of a newspaper torn between running scurrilous tabloid fodder or losing readership, 3) a young musician faced with the prospect of signing a record deal and compromising his artistic integrity or something, and 4) a philanthropist searching for a purpose.

The hobo's words of hope to these folks: in your day-to-day life ask the question "What Would Jesus Do?"

And with that, welcome to 1997!

When this disc first arrived on my doorstep, I was sure it was re-issue of an older release. As a God-fearing individual I can buy into the concept of WWJD, but as a fad and a phenomenon I'm not as interested. Really, why wear those bands? I'm fairly certain that toting around an accessory noting how awesome your decision-making is would be something that Jesus would likely not do.

Pardon my grumpiness, but as an observer of Bible-centric movies made by the faithful, this latest outing represents a regression of a positive trend. There have been some successful examples of Christian moviemaking in recent years with Saving God, Faith Like Potatoes and To Save a Life. Were they Oscar contenders? No, but they were well-made, inspiring without being preachy and not corny. WWJD falters in all of these departments.

The storyline is simplistic (the mayor villain is a ridiculous construct), the acting (save for Schneider) is amateurish and there's nothing subtle about the messaging. I don't want a filmmaker to water down the message, Christian or otherwise, but unless a film like this is made expressly for believers -- and then you're just preaching to the converted in a literal sense so what's the point, right? -- you're going to keep some viewers at arm's length. It's a tricky balancing act, I'll grant, though it can be done.

Then again, if you are one of the converted and looking for an utterly innocuous film that delivers a good message clumsily, here you go.

The DVD: 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, 5.1 surround, no extras.

The Verdict

Guilty of not keeping the positive trend going.

Review content copyright © 2011 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 65

Perp Profile
Studio: Phase 4 Films
Video Formats:
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)

Subtitles:
* None

Running Time: 88 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Rated PG

Distinguishing Marks
* None

Accomplices
* IMDb
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt1430131/combined