Movie Review - Facing the Giants

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Alex Kendrick
Carmel Entertainment
 for some thematic elements

Facing the Giants is the story of the underdog. The protagonist is facing the prospect of unemployment. He and his wife are facing childlessness. He and the school are facing the loss of their reputations. He and the team are facing the painful consequences of wrong priorities, and then of right priorities. Friendships are threatened. Hopes are shattered. The car dies… again.

Facing the Giants has a certain appeal for people who have been there at some time or other, past or present, and its message has an unusual relevancy for those of us who have not only been there, but will doubtless be there again in the future. The story of Facing the Giants ought to draw crowds… and it did. What kept people from watching it was the art that supported the story. It seems Christian visual media professionals have a reputation for producing art that glorifies our God less than the art of the world does theirs. Facing the Giants, however, while it may have left room for improvement, went a long way toward breaking down the prejudices (the justifiable ones, at any rate) people have had toward Christian film. And while Facing the Giants may not always exhibit the savoir-faire of the better Hollywood movies, there are several other Hollywood standards it doesn’t exhibit, either. Unfortunately, while an explicitly Christian message and an almost perfect moral content are definitely enough to outweigh the artistic low points, that “almost” is unfortunately enough to earn the recommendation a few qualifiers.

Violent and Intense Content:

Facing the Giants may have been about a lot of other things, but the fact is that, to some degree, it’s a movie about football. Of course it’s got violent content. Anyone who is squeamish about contact sports should avoid this movie. One player is helped off the field with a broken collarbone; other than that, there is just a lot of hitting and tackling involved, to varying degrees of intensity.

This is a football movie. People shout at each other.

Sexual Content:
Even the most modesty-conscious viewers are not likely to be offended by the ladies’ outfits… except for the cheerleaders’. Yes, this is Shiloh Christian Academy, not the NFL, but they’re still cheerleaders.

Before we get too much farther, the issue of sports, themselves, ought to be addressed. Recreational sports, if seen as a means, rather than an end, aren’t a problem. On the other hand, you can hardly help but view “professional” sports as an end in themselves, and there is a problem with that. High school level sports are somewhere in between these two poles, and I’m not quite sure, at this point, which side they are closest to, objectively. This isn’t helped by the fact that the more intense action scenes—the battle scenes, if you will—are battles for state championship, rather than for victories over real evil. It leaves the audience with about the same satisfaction as a moral triumph would in another movie, which has the potential to blur the line between purposeful success, and success in the apparently purposeless world of major sports—the world of real conflicts with imaginary enemies.
As is obvious, the only way to get a Christian high school football team is in the context of a Christian high school. “School life” is not the focus of the movie, however, and the classroom and other student interaction is only brought in as it relates to the football team. Viewers who feel strongly about fathers being a child’s primary source for spiritual guidance may be particularly conscious of the youth-group-like atmosphere of the team; though it may also be observed that the father character the audience is supposed to like is very much involved in his son’s school and spiritual life, and that he is not replaced by the team coach in either area. Whether the coach should have replaced the spiritually absent fathers is debatable.
Facing the Giants may not have been critiqued much on either the sports or the setting, but it has definitely received widespread criticism about its view of faith and God’s blessings. The team turns their goal from winning games to glorifying God, and they, and the coach especially, suddenly receive an unusual amount of blessing. It would be unbiblical to say that God is bound to bless people in those ways, just because they got their priorities straight. It would also, however, be unbiblical to say that God is not free to do so, if he desires. We might complain that the climactic decision at the end of the final game comes across as a bit presumptuous. On the other hand, if it’s a choice between certain loss, or certain loss except in the case of providential intervention, one might as well pray for the providential intervention and be ready for it. Whatever we might think about the apparent unrealism of these situations, we probably ought to remember that Facing the Giants is a movie, with an ending that we as the audience are supposed to walk away from smiling. Not too many of us would be all that interested in seeing a movie where absolutely nothing changes after the great moral decision.
It isn’t exactly a threat to orthodoxy, but one character “felt led” to bring a certain verse to the coach, and also to apply it to his decision whether or not to stay at the school.

Those who disliked Facing the Giants actually did so, for the most part, because Facing the Giants is an overtly Christian movie. As such, it has been negatively compared to a sermon, because of its message and content. If you are actually trying to bring every area of your life into submission to Christ, however, you probably won’t find this movie “preaching” at you. And, realistically, if you believe that this level of exhortation is best reserved for church services, there is a very good chance you don’t really enjoy it in church much, either.
Just about everyone else who didn’t like the movie expressed contempt for the quality of the plot line or the art. None of us really want to factor budget or experience into our opinion of any movie, and deep down those of us who do so recognize inferiority when we see it. On the other hand, lest we grow too dismissive of a pretty-well-done Christian movie, we might do well to remember all the Hollywood movies that ended just the way we knew they would, or that featured spots of amateurish acting or writing.
Facing the Giants is not a perfect movie, but it is a good movie. There are enough scenes of violent nature to remove at least girls under the age of ten from my recommended audience before a parental preview, and enough thematic elements and controversial premises to remove those under the age of twelve, who are not accompanied by their parents.

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