[Screen It]

(2015) (Mira Sorvino, Ted McGinley) (PG-13)

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Christian Drama: The lives of a dozen Chicagoans and a few others intersect as each undergoes a crisis of spiritual faith.
When Pastor Matthew (TED McGINLEY) encounters an old man named Malachi (DELROY LINDO) carrying a cross and confronting a couple of gun-toting gang bangers nick-named Kriminal and Pretty Boy (SENYO AMOAKU and rapper SCHWAYZE, respectively), he is inspired by the man's courage and faith and challenges members of his congregation to put their faith into action. Among them are senior couple J.D. and his wife, Teri (LEE MAJORS and CYBILL SHEPHERD, respectively), who are still grieving over the loss of their grown daughter years earlier to a drunk driver; husband-and wife EMT Bobby (LIAM MATTHEWS) and Elena (VALERIE DOMINGUEZ); and cancer-stricken Joe (BRIAN BOSWORTH).

J.D., Teri, and Joe seek to help a homeless widow, Samantha (MIRA SORVINO), and her daughter, Lily (MACKENIZE MOSS), get off the streets. Joe tries to help Pretty Boy go straight. Pastor Matthew and his infertile wife, Grace (TRACY MELCHIOR), care for an unwed pregnant homeless teen named Maggie (MADISON PETTIS). And Elena opens her home to her younger brother, Carlos (JOSEPH JULIAN SORIA), a war veteran suffering from PTSD who falls for a young suicidal woman named Lacey (ALEXA PENAVEGA).

In their orbit is Dr. Farell (SEAN ASTIN), an ER physician who doesn't understand why more of his patients thank God and not him for saving their lives. His wife, Andrea (ANDREA LOGAN WHITE), represents the wife of a man who recently died while Bobby administered care and shared Holy Scripture with him. All of these characters have crises of faith on some level. And many of their storylines come together late during a frightening multi-car accident on a Chicago bridge in which some will be saved physically and others will be saved spiritually.

OUR TAKE: 4.5 out of 10
For films not screened for the reviewing press, we provide only a few paragraphs of critical analysis.

With the box office success of movies like "God's Not Dead" and "Heaven Is For Real," Christian-themed movies are now getting major play at cineplexes nationwide. As a Christian, I'm always torn a bit by my duties as a reviewer to give an accurate assessment of each film's artistic merit and my inherent love of "The Message" no matter how obviously or clumsily delivered. The latest example is titled "Do You Believe?" And while it is an exceedingly noble effort to tell a "Magnolia"-like tale of interlocking storylines that all come together at the end during one spectacular shared event, I can't quite sign off on this one because ... well ... the film is really, REALLY hard to trudge through for about an hour and 45 minutes to get to the big climax.

The kaleidoscope of characters here all have one thing in common. They each are undergoing a crisis of faith. The problem is ... everyone's crisis is SO bleepin' severe! There's no relief. There's not a storyline or two that adds a bit of light humor to the proceedings, like in "God's Not Dead" with the pastor having constant car troubles. One character is dying of leukemia. Another character is an EMT who is persecuted for sharing his faith with a dying man. Still another is a street crook on the run from stealing a drug dealer's money and also hunted by his gangsta brother. Then, there is the homeless widow caring for her angelic little girl, and the homeless unwed pregnant teen not knowing whether to keep her baby or put it up for adoption. There is a middle-aged couple who have been unable to conceive a child, and a senior couple who lost their only daughter years earlier to a drunk driver. And, of course, there's the soldier just back from the Middle East suffering from PTSD. His only friend? A young suicidal woman who comes to the same bridge that he does to contemplate jumping off.

It's all a bit much, despite some nice performances by the likes of Mira Sorvino, Sean Astin, and such former "Love Boat" passengers as Lee Majors, Cybill Shepherd, and Ted McGinley. People often see church as a chore and that's why they don't go. There's no reason why a movie about church-going (or the need for) had to be such a chore, too. You can still have a crisis of faith and not be in such dire circumstances. Maybe you just work in an office with a bunch of douchebags who make you question whether there is a just and omnipresent Maker. Or maybe you are a believer, but your spouse and kid just want to go restaurant hopping every Sunday morning in search of the perfect brunch buffet. Everyone's packin' on the pounds. losing sight of their toes AND the Lord! Had the filmmakers here given us just a little bit of levity, it would have really benefited their movie.

There's also a late miracle that happens in this film that I really don't think was necessary. In fact, I think more could have been learned by the characters AND the audience about faith and God if this miracle did NOT happen. But, hey, what do I know? Sixteen years ago this December, I gave a rave, RAVE review to "Magnolia" -- a movie that climaxed with a storm of ... uh ... frogs raining down on the entire cast of characters and changing their lives. "Do You Believe?" croaks up a 4.5 out of 10. (T. Durgin)

Reviewed March 19, 2015 / Posted March 20, 2015

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