Greater: The Story of Brandon Burlsworth full movie review - Please watch any movie that has won the Best Picture Academy Award before giving this a 10.
Guys, really, it wasn't that great. TL;DR - INCREDIBLY clichéd, passable to bad acting, amateurish dialogue and direction
The challenges of modern religious cinema vary depending on writer, producer, and director's intentions. Are they trying to change someone's mind? Are they attempting to make a subversive, artistic work? Are they aiming to create and advertisement for Jesus? Depending on what the motives of the project heads are, though each is making a film about/involving faith, you will receive an extremely different result. Each of these results is acceptable in their own way and among their respective target audiences, but one thing should remain constant through all of them: objective quality.
The film "Greater," about the life and death of Arkansas Razorback walk-on legend Brandon Burlsworth, unfortunately, fails to live up to this desired consistency. Though it is sprinkled with truly inspirational elements and a light touch of good humor, its obliviousness to commonly lampooned tropes and clichés hold it back from being called "good."
To begin with, what I found most positive about Greater, I would like to say that, though his acting ability could be described as "subpar," Christopher Severio's performance as Brandon Burlsworth endeared me to the character. I honestly rooted for his success and sympathized with his failures and shortcomings. Though having a character that comes this close to being morally perfect is very often a point against realism and tends to break a suspension of disbelief (and I also doubt the real Burlsworth was as flawless as this film made him appear) I could not stop my enjoyment of him.
Brandon's older brother, Marty Burlsworth (his senior by 17 years), was most capably portrayed. Neal McDonough's performance was without question the most honest and diverse one of the feature. Though he seemed much, much too old to be playing the age he was supposed to play, it didn't stop the relationships he formed with other characters from developing and growing on me. You began to understand Marty's struggles and difficulties along the way while also valuing Brandon's resolve. Without a doubt, they are the best elements of this film.
As for the rest, its quality ranges from passable to cringe worthy to abysmal. The most notable of these offenses is the cliché riddled script. It doesn't bore you in the way that you can recite each line of dialogue before it's delivered, but it does resurrect many lines that were formally parodied so heavily they disappeared. The "clean out your locker" and "We did it coach!" tropes appeared so suddenly I was actually taken aback. Aside from these, the soundtrack was so trite and effortlessly generic it became slightly unbearable. The dialogue never breaches the barrier of "good" and frequently passes below the bar of "bad," though it does manage to average out at acceptable or, at least, comprehensible.
There are a few more points I could make but they don't impact the story more than those I've already made. I would "go easy" on the film for understanding that it was low budget, produced by well-meaning individuals, and managed to have enough heart to wrap me in, but I try not to lower my standards for any film for any reason. I'm as hard on "Flywheel" and "VeggieTales" as I am on any other production.
It is not very good, and to some, it could be seen as "bad." But, I can say I found a more honest and heartfelt story than in most hyper-religious films released in the past ten years. The cinematography during Marty's discussion with the old man became actually dynamic and intriguing at a few points, and the conversation's climax, though odd and underdeveloped, was still good enough to make me smile. Underneath the healthy coating of clichés, overused tropes, and amateurish writing/directing, is something that I could see as a perfectly fine "feel-good" film.