Saturday, February 16, 2013

Christian Movie Review: "What If...?"

I am in the middle of a long weekend. At our school, they call it "Winter Break." This means Friday and Monday off, around the time of President's Day. So Thursday night was especially sweet, knowing I did not have to get up the next day, or the next, or the next, or the next.

Before I was saved, I was a movie buff. I loved movies. Foreign films, obscure films, blockbusters, you name it, I enjoyed them.

After salvation, the work of the Spirit kicks in and sanctification matures a person. Sanctification is defined "To sanctify means to be set apart for a holy use. God has set us apart for the purpose of sanctification not impurity (1 Thess. 4:7),"

This means that I no longer enjoy the things I used to enjoy because of the sin that is inherent in them. If is not holy, forget it.

The movie thing is a hard sin to let go. I love to sit absorbed for an hour and a half or two hours, cerebrally involved in a good movie that has good writing and good acting. I love to be mentally challenged. Documentaries were especially wonderful, because I love to learn. I cannot stand documentaries now because they are full of lies. Science documentaries that say dinosaurs roamed "millions of years ago" or canyons that were formed by river "erosion over millions of eons" or man "evolved from monkeys" are simply not true. So I don't even waste my time.

Movies tend to be chock full of sin. (Same with books). What to watch that would be time well spent in holy pursuits, not be offensive to God, not put terrible thoughts into my brain, or weigh my heart down with dissipation? That one's tougher.

Even harder is to tread the balance between resting too deeply (complacently) in Jesus and the comfort of His Gospel, and not swinging too far the other way and getting legalistic on myself. Downton Abbey is one my conscience pricks me with. The Christian Pundit wrote "Why I Won't Watch Downton Abbey" and I agreed with each one of her points, completely. Yet I still watch! As a matter of fact I am looking forward to it. When will Anna call her husband "John"? Will Daisy leave the Abbey and work the farm? Will Lady Violet and Isobel ever be friends? O, the drama. I am a weak, weak woman, in love with pretty castles and nice gowns. I admit my superficiality...

So there's Netflix. I can pick and choose after thoroughly vetting a show or a movie. To find an uplifting movie free from sin is asking almost too much. To find one meeting those qualifications that also has correct doctrine is like finding a needle in a haystack.

But I found one.

It is called "What If...?" The Internet Movie Database synopsizes the movie thus: "15 years ago, Ben Walker left his girlfriend and his ministry calling for a business opportunity. Now with a high-paying career and a trophy fiancé, he is visited by an angel, who gives him a glimpse into what his life would look like had he followed his calling."

It is a combination It's a Wonderful Life and Family Man. It is a time warping, parallel universe kind of peek into a life that has the other answers to choices you did not make in this universe. I loved Sliding Doors and Me, Myself, I (the one with Rachel Griffiths, not Me, Myself and I with JoBeth Williams and definitely not Me, Myself, & Irene with Jim Carrey!) And who doesn't love Back to the Future and Groundhog Day? Talk about cerebral, The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was also a great movie.

I saw all of those pre-salvation, mind you. I have not seen them lately with a more sanctified eye so I do not know if they stand the test of purity or not.

"What If...?" came out in 2010 and stars Kevin Sorbo, Kristy Swanson, and John Ratzenberger as the angel. The director is Dallas Jenkins, son of Jerry B. Jenkins of Left Behind fame.

Now, John Ratzenberger is just a sweet, peach of a charming man whenever he is in one of these films. I mentioned his work in the last movie review I'd written, WWJD II/The Woodcarver. He is a confident, wonderful actor. Kevin Sorbo is likable and I thought Kristy Swanson played the perplexed wife very well. And the kids were good too.

The one beef I've read from other reviewers is that God works all things for the good for those who love Him, and the movie makes it seem that our path in life hinges on only one right choice. That if you make one wrong choice, that's it for you, no second chances. That view leaves God powerless to our choices rather than the architect of our faith and the sovereign of the world and the universe.

If the story was played that way, I'd agree with the negative comment. But the end shows that this is not what really happens. I won't give it away, but it isn't really an issue ... you'll see why.

I thought the modesty issue was well handled (only one shirt the wife wore was a bit low cut) but the replacement husband from the alternate universe slept on the couch. No profanity, and I didn't catch any obvious sins aside from the obvious ones the movie people wanted to show us as a starting point for the journey of transformation in the main character (money loving, selfish, insider trading).

It is a funny movie, too. The protagonist's first sermon on what turned out to be the first day at his new church was hilarious. He fell back to the only thing he knew: "Make more money so you can be happy." LOL!

The touching moment were well done without being preachy. As much as I like preaching, movies are movies, not sermons. This is one place where well-meaning Christian movies often go awry, but not "What If...?"

For example, the display of deep humility Ben Walker showed when he overheard his wife praying for him, the embarrassment at recognizing how badly he'd bungled his daughter's dating situation, the generosity of the smallest daughter's offering of the piggy bank, even the length of time it took him to let go the things he'd thought were so precious, like his fancy car.

I enjoyed the scene at a hospital deathbed where he preached the Gospel in a solid way (parable of the laborers in the vineyard, Matthew 20:1–16). And I enjoyed the end very much.

I'd say that "What If...?" is an entertaining, well-done, safe movie for Christians and families. I hope you enjoy it too!

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