I remember exactly where I was when I saw the Kendrick brothers’ Flywheel for the first time. My future wife and I were hanging out at one of my best friends’ houses late at night and this low-budget gem came on public access television. It was hilarious. The time that we spent laughing at that movie like we were the stars of our own MST3K… it was immensely enjoyable. Unfortunately for me, I have a terrible habit of linking onto things with a parasitic sort of obsession. I sought out the rest of the Kendrick brothers’ output for a long while, but then my focus turned to terrible Christian films in general. As of this moment, 14% of my Netflix queue consists of Christian movies. I am sick. Please get help.
I think the fever may be breaking, though, and Sarah’s Choice may be partly to thank for that. The movie is about a career-minded woman (Rebecca St. James) who is up for a promotion which requires a lot of travel, but then she finds out that she’s pregnant and must make a terrible choice: get an abortion, or keep the baby and lose the job. You know, I came to Christian movies looking for hilarity – but it’s becoming clear that the vast majority of films in the genre aren’t made with zero budget by buffoons. They’re more often made by Christian film studios utilizing professional filmmakers and a larger budget – making them less adorable pet projects and more into hideous direct-to-DVD bores.That’s exactly what Sarah’s Choice is.
The Kendrick brothers are best known now for their Kirk Cameron vehicle Fireproof. The grainy film, the off-the-street actors, the lack of sound design or lighting that made their original movie such a treat has been forsaken in favor of slick editing and lame direction. I have almost no interest in their upcoming film because I get the sense that the Kendricks have left everything behind that once made them special. Similarly, Cross Shadow productions had a major victory with the no-budget Pray, but their presence in Christian cinema is growing and with it each subsequent movie is becoming more stylish, more “professional” looking, and therefore less engaging.
There’s a lot of stupid things in Sarah’s Choice. I took notes so that I could describe them to you. At one point, Sarah asks an employee at the abortion clinic if she remembers seeing a woman who was handing out holiday cards. “That’s a Christmas card,” the clinic staffer says with disgust, “We don’t hand anything out like this.” Oh, because they hate Christianity! Furthermore, the reason that Sarah has such a difficult time making this decision regarding her unborn child is that she has fallen away from God after her father’s death – why didn’t God save him? There are never any genuine atheists in Christian movies, they’ve all become angry with God following some crisis that shook their faith. And anyway, the answer to why God killed her dad is also pretty typical for Christian films: “God knows what’s best for us.” Sometimes, killing off your dad and getting you knocked up is what’s best for you.
I could go on, but I almost regret taking so many notes on this dumb movie. I’m almost ashamed. There is nothing of value here. There is nothing funny, nothing entertaining in the least. At this point, I’m not getting anything out of watching these movies. Will that stop me? I don’t know. I do get some kind of sick pleasure from feeling like an authority on Christian films. The fact that I can name-drop the Kendricks or the Christiano brothers or David A.R. White makes me feel like I’m some kind of expert on something. Plus, there are the occasional home-runs. There may be more The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry type movies, but every time I run across a C Me Dance or a You & Me, Us, Forever, I still get that feeling of ecstatic joy. It’s a rush, man.
So yes, the actor who plays Uncle Clay in this movie is just about the worst actor ever. And everybody’s arguments in favor of having the baby seem to boil down to either a blanket “abortion is wrong” or else the more disturbing “nobody is ever ready to have a baby”. Sarah can’t even pay her RENT, but nobody is concerned with that. Just because you can’t afford to take care of yourself is no reason that you can’t take care of a child, apparently. There are glimpses of absurdity that I can try to sift out of the endless monotony, but I’d rather not have to try this hard.
Much like Sarah, I now have a choice. I can either abort this freaky obsession with Christian cinema, or I can stay and see it through. I suppose it’s like Uncle Clay says – you’ve got to go through the bad stuff before you can get to the good stuff.. or even, the great stuff. I’m holding out for great stuff. This shit ain’t it.
This review was written 09/18/2010.