Judge David Johnson is not in love with this movie.
Come as you are.
Jeff "Ja Rule" Atkins (The Fast and the Furious) emerged from prison apparently a Godly man, and one of his first roles out of the clink was headlining this Bible-centric romantic drama. Unfortunately, while his guardian angel might be suiting up for duty, his guardian agent is asleep at the wheel. I'm in Love With a Church Girl bites.
Atkins plays Miles Montego, a drug dealer who's living large. He's got a cadre of good friends, multiple sexual partners, a gigantic house, and bling as far as the eye can see. What could he possibly be lacking? The answer arrives in the form of the lovely Vanessa (Adrienne Bailon, The Cheetah Girls: One World), a churchgoing young woman with a gorgeous smile and horrible taste in men. Bewitched by her beauty and persona, Miles begins his pursuit and the two eventually start dating. She's put off by his crude pals and their slutty girlfriends, but sticks with him anyway, even in the face of strenuous objections by her mother. There's a term for this, by the way—"Missionary Dating"—and it's as ridiculous as it sounds.
Meanwhile, a tenacious cop (Stephen Baldwin, The Usual Suspects) is poised to drop the hammer on Miles, curtail his mini-empire and haul him into prison, thus destroying any shot of Divine redemption and a rewarding relationship with a nice girl. Or is he?
That's supposed to be the ongoing tension in this movie, the creeping threat of the drug bust just as our sort-of-hero is starting to come to the light. But like everything else here, it doesn't work; short-circuited by some horrible acting and a denouement that doesn't make any sense. Mild spoiler, but personal sacrifice is sort of a big deal in the story of the Atonement, and Miles Montego manages to have his cake and eat it too, despite his impressive rap sheet.
But crapping on the ending doesn't do the film—or crap itself—any justice. From the opening frame to the final title, I'm in Love With a Church Girl is a complete embarrassment, and I say that with no joy. I'm all for well-executed Godly films, and the past few years have delivered some decent ones, good enough to earn some street cred. But an amateurish train wreck like this does no one any favors: the actors, the directors, the writers, God our Father, no one. I'm sure everyone involved had their hearts in the right place. I just wish they had the will and the talent to back it up.
The acting is universally wooden, with Baldwin's aloofness trumped only by the inertness of Michael Madsen (Reservoir Dogs) in a thirty second cameo. Bailon gives it a go, but she's dragged down by some rough writing and weirdo character convictions. As far as Ja Rule, regardless of his conversion, he's just on cruise control here, offering not a scintilla of the emotion you would expect from a man about to find God and change his life.
The story is simply an anchor on this wreckage dragging it down into the inky blackness, glacial, overwrought and uninteresting. I'm in Love With a Church Girl runs for nearly two hours and nothing happens. Two people flirt, date a little bit, some adversity strikes, and God bails them out. Or rather, God as a magic genie bails them out, which isn't quite the real and grounded message of faith that should be transmitted. In my humble opinion, of course.
As lame as the film is, I'll give credit to the Cinedigm technicians who put I'm in Love With a Church Girl (Blu-ray) together. The 1.78:1/1080p HD transfer is a looker; the DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix doesn't have much to do, but it's solid; and a handful of extras—deleted scenes, a making-of featurette, and a look at the man who the movie was loosely based on—round out the package.
This stinks to high heaven.
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