As a call to action, controversial Christian-rocker-turned-writer/director Steve Taylor's debut film is beyond reproach, urging financially comfortable churchgoers to put biblical principles into practice and reach out across the gulf of race, class and economic status to their less fortunate brethren. As a film, it is earnest, cliched, often awkward and unlikely to inspire anyone who isn't already thoroughly sold on its message of salvation through community activism. Pastor Ethan Jenkins (Christian-pop singer Michael W. Smith) is in line to inherit the position of senior pastor at The Rock an affluent suburban megachurch in the Nashville area that has a weekly TV show, a polished, professional-caliber choir and an international ministry when his father, Jeremiah (J. Don Ferguson), steps down. But there's trouble within The Rock's ranks: The elders don't care for Ethan's showbiz style and decide to take him down a notch after an embarrassing incident. Ethan ignores their advice and cedes his pulpit to visiting pastor Jake Sanders (Jeff Obafemi Carr) of The Rock's impoverished sister church, Second Chance. In front of a television audience, Jake takes the congregation to task for ignoring Second Chance's struggling inner-city members except when there's a feel-good fund drive, and he concludes by telling them to keep their charity. Ethan's punishment is a nonnegotiable assignment to work with Jake at Second Chance Community Church. Though Ethan's father founded Second Chance and mentored Jake during his early days as a minister, Ethan's rich-boy attitude and high-handed ignorance alienate Second Chance's congregants. But bit by bit, Ethan lets go of his privileged preconceptions and opens his eyes to the systemic injustices that keep Second Chance's community poor and disenfranchised. By the time he and Jake uncover a conspiracy to demolish the church that's helped hold a fragile neighborhood together for decades, they've put aside their differences and are prepared to work together for the greater good. Part of a small but growing group of faith-based, independently produced films aimed at Christian audiences, Taylor's film, which he claims to have conceived as "TRAINING DAY set in an inner-city church," is seriously undermined by his clunky screenplay (cowritten with Henry O. Arnold and Ben Pearson) and Smith's remarkably wooden performance as the supposedly charismatic Ethan. Smith also supplied much of the film's painfully bland music, and the contrast with 2005's equally clunky THE GOSPEL, which is electrified by a rousing soundtrack, is both vivid and unflattering.
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- Released: 2006
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: As a call to action, controversial Christian-rocker-turned-writer/director Steve Taylor's debut film is beyond reproach, urging financially comfortable churchgoers to put biblical principles into practice and reach out across the gulf of race, class and ec… (more)