Faith Based Review: A Charming & Sharp Religious Film Satire

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Rating: 

8/10

Cast:

Luke Barnett as Luke

Tanner Thomason as Tanner

Lance Reddick as Pastor Mike

Jason Alexander as Nicky Steele

Margaret Cho as Jane

David Koechner as Butch Savage

Christoph Sanders as Hoyt

Carly Craig as Brandy

Richard Riehle as Herman

Chris Marquette as Hans

Lisa Schwartz as Lisa

Danielle Nicolet as Tiffany

Danny Woodburn as Jimmy

Directed by Vincent Masciale; Written by Luke Barnett

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Faith Based Review:

The film world has been the subject of a number of satire-driven stories over the years, with everything from the industry-skewering Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back to the horror genre-critiquing Scream and New Nightmare, but one subject storytellers have frequently avoided is the world of religious-inspired filmmaking and now Luke Barnett has set his sights on the genre and the result is a mostly funny and fairly sharp comedy.

When two friends come to realize that every low budget Christian movie starring ’90s TV actors make millions of dollars, they hatch a plan to make their own genre film entitled A Prayer in Space, telling the story of the first prayer to ever be prayed in space.

The general set up for the film feels reminiscent of Kevin Smith’s Zack and Miri Make a Porno as two down-on-their-financial-luck friends find a way to get ahead in life by capitalizing on a booming industry, though unlike Smith’s underrated gem, Barnett has utilized his “making a film” premise to actually issue a satirical point to viewers instead of aiming for a simply fun ride. The film doesn’t necessarily take any jabs or stabs at the institution of religion or their followers, but rather at its titular industry and the shadowy nature behind it.

In the money-hungry world of Hollywood filmmaking, it shouldn’t come as a surprise when the producers in the film are depicted as non-practicing in their religion and even uncaring in their efforts to deliver an inspirational story to audiences, but the manner in which they’re introduced and set the story in motion is a funny and surprising point that helps really ground the story and its satire.

From alcohol-driven performers to mildly-obsessed ex girlfriends helping with production, the character roster is full of unique and charming figures that help keep the energy of the film alive and provide a deeper connection to Luke and Tanner’s journey and many nice foils to their generally likable personas. One of the most interesting of the bunch arrives in the form of Jason Alexander’s TV actor-turned-definitely-pyramid-scheme head Nicky Steele, with the Seinfeld actor perfectly capturing his cult leader-esque personality in the inspirational videos as well as the actually-manic nature of a white collar hustler facing his own kinds of struggles.

Where the film’s real faults lie is in some of its hesitation to go a little further with its satire as well as its low budget nature, which frequently give the film a feeling of a cheaply-made production akin to the very films its skewering. There’s nothing inherently wrong with low-budget atmospheres or approaches to bringing stories to life, with some actually making the best use of their shoestring finances and Vincent Masciale does find display some stylishly shot moments throughout, while others offer an unfortunate spotlight to how limited the group clearly were. In establishing their primary financial backer as the preacher of a megachurch, it almost feels like Barnett and co. are ready to take some well-researched shots at the Disneylands for Christians, but sadly it feels like every time they’re ready to go for the jab they pull back and choose to direct their attentions elsewhere.

Despite this small handful of flaws, however, Faith Based ultimately proves to be a really charming, very smart and frequently funny ride with a unique satirical target and a sweet cast.