God's Not Dead 2 full movie review - If God isn't dead, he probably wishes he were after seeing what these filmmakers did in his name.
"God's Not Dead 2" (PG, 2:01) is a fantasy ? and I am NOT (repeat, NOT) referring to the religious beliefs at the film's core.
At the Movie Fan Community Facebook Page, we conscientiously avoid taking sides when it comes to religion, politics, or controversial social issues. We simply evaluate movies on their own individual merits. Before "God's Not Dead 2", we previously reviewed about a dozen faith-based movies since starting this page in January 2015 ? and we've reviewed the majority of them positively (e.g. "The Young Messiah", "Risen" and "Do You Believe?") and, although we didn't review it, we also saw the original "God's Not Dead". This sequel stands as one of the most unrealistic faith-based films we have ever seen (and, again, we are not referring to the film's biblical message). Our staff includes a former high school history teacher and an attorney. We think you'll find this review to be an objective and well-informed critique and a fair evaluation of this particular movie's own plusses and minuses.
While certainly very much in the spirit of its predecessor, "God's Not Dead 2" features an entirely new plot, but brings back some of the same characters from the 2014 original. Reverend Dave (David A. R. White) and Reverend Jude (Benjamin Onyango) reunite at Reverend Dave's church, while Chinese college student, Martin Yip (Paul Kwo) and blogger Amy Ryan (Trisha LaFache) each continue the respective faith journeys they began when each became Christians in the first film, plus the Christian rock band "Newsboys" again has a couple scenes. Other minor cast members worthy of note include "Duck Dynasty" cast member Sadie Robertson in her first feature film and the late Fred Thompson in a scene which marks his final on-screen role. Of course, as interesting as all that is, the main point of this movie is a second attempt by Pure Flix Entertainment, their go-to writing team of Chuck Konzelman and Cary Solomon, and returning director Harold Cronk to prove to Movie Fans that God is not dead.
This time around, instead of in a college classroom, issues of faith come up in a high school classroom and the main debate is not between an atheist professor and his student, but between lawyers in an Arkansas courtroom. The trouble starts when public school history student Brooke Thawley (Hayley Orrantia) asks her teacher, committed Christian Grace Wesley (Melissa Joan Hart), a question about Jesus' teachings as they relate to the Civil Rights Movement and Grace answers Brooke by quoting a passage from the New Testament. The phrasing of the question and the answer both sound purely academic in nature, but the principal (Robin Givens) and Brooke's parents (Carey Scott and Maria Canals-Barrera) are very upset and Grace soon finds herself appearing before the local school board.
Grace refuses to apologize for the way she answered Brooke's question, so the board lets the case go to court. Brooke's parents are represented by ACLU attorney Pete Kane (Ray Wise) who professes to hate everything Grace stands for. Grace's attorney, Tom Endler (Jesse Metcalfe) is a non-Christian "low man on the totem pole" provided by Grace's teacher's union. Tom is determined to win his case and Grace's grandfather (Pat Boone), whom she cares for in her home, encourages her, but she's afraid that she'll lose everything is she loses her court case. Reverend Dave ends up on the jury, blogger Amy Ryan's interest is peaked and this situation has a big impact on Brooke's life as well. Plus, the whole nation seems to be watching to see whether the name of Jesus will be barred from the classroom. Tom has to establish that Grace's classroom discussion with Brooke was historical and, therefore, academic in nature. He decides that the best way to prove his case is to prove Jesus' existence as an actual historical figure. As part of his case, he calls witnesses who include famous real-life atheists-turned-Christian authors Lee Strobel and J. Warner Wallace. Then, this young lawyer pulls a couple late trial tricks that are shocking to see the judge (Ernie Hudson) allow and to see opposing counsel not fight against harder.
"God's Not Dead 2" is well-acted and mostly well-directed, but it buries its own message underneath a pile of implausible plot points and dialog. The script imagines a world in which the mere mention of Jesus' name in a public school classroom could get a teacher fired and her teaching certificate revoked. Although some recent court decisions have gone against the Christian perspective on certain issues, the country that this film portrays simply does not exist. Nor does a courtroom exist in which the types of legal arguments and tactics that we see in this film could be employed. This movie furthers its fantasy by filling its world with non-Christians who are always bad people ? uncaring parents, angry protesters, stupid judges and evil lawyers ? even casting a man who once played the devil in a TV series as the plaintiff's attorney ? and having him glower in the courtroom scenes as if he really were Satan himself.
Those stereotypes represent the exception rather than the rule in real life and they're insulting ? both to those who aren't Christians, and to those who are, but also have friends and acquaintances beyond the walls of their church. One-dimensional characters do this film no favors, nor does the script jumping back and forth between trying to prove that God is alive and that a teacher should be able to speak Jesus' name in an academic context, but actually proving neither. The more our staff members discussed this movie, the more we became concerned about the blood pressure of the lawyer on our staff. Furthermore, the movie ends with a post-credits scene setting up another sequel. We hope #3 improves on #2's fallacious story. "D"