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While the filmmaking is fairly competent, Courageous is overall worthless to anybody who doesn't subscribe to its dogmatic agenda.
While the filmmaking is fairly competent, Courageous is overall worthless to anybody who doesn't subscribe to its dogmatic agenda.
All Critics (21)
| Top Critics (8)
| Fresh (7)
| Rotten (14)
| DVD (1)
It takes a certain touch to pull it off, and here, the serviceable cast just doesn't have it in them.
The many topics raised - gangs, drugs, immigration, absentee parents, poverty - are examined with didacticism and platitudes instead of by mining their inherent complexities.
Overplotted and understructured, "Courageous" is a slog to get through at 130 minutes.
Devolves into over-the-top drama and a suffocating heavy-handedness.
Fails to answer the more pressing question of why religious sagas such as this treat subtlety as a sin.
Courageous literally preaches to the converted, delivering ham-fisted messages of responsibility to the most receptive audience possible.
Most of the characters are well-written and nuanced.
A significant step backward for those movie making preachers at Sherwood...
Nicely produced, but the converted are more likely to be impressed than the skeptical.
Dares to preach its highly controversial message in order to inspire the faithful while risking the ire of critics and non-believers. Its message? Fathers, man up.
Despite violence, Christian fatherhood drama is uplifting.
Yeah, it's still a preach-to-the-choir movie, but this choir doesn't really see itself on the big screen very often, so don't begrudge them a film where the action hero cop stops and prays for guidance before big gun battle. It happens.
From the makers of "Fire Proof" comes this movie about four cops reconnecting with their faith in hopes of building a better relationship with their children and with God. It's a pretty religious movie, that never goes overboard(although some of things that they do is pretty borderline). These movies are usually lower budget and the acting isn't the greatest. But here, you can tell they are getting better at making good, quality movies that still get the message across. The acting isn't the best, as it's filled with unknowns. But you still get engaged with the characters and their struggles, especially with a shootout towards the end(I was on the edge, I cannot lie). At over 2 hours long, the movie drags in spots, and really could have been about 30 minutes shorter. However, it's an important movie to see that gives you perspective on being a good model parent(I'm no saint, and the movie made me want to be a better Dad). I think everyone should watch this, even if your not religious. If you take the religious overtones out of this, it will still make you want to be there for your children more. Good watch with a good message.
Last fall, Courageous opened to sellout crowds, but unless you or your family is plugged in to Christian media, you probably missed it (you know a movie's got to be good when it has a quote from former football coach Tony Dungy). This is the latest film from the Kendrick brothers, a pair of pastors that started their own production company and have been making low-budget Christian-themed dramas that score big profits. What they really create, in my estimation, are two-hour film components to go along with a readymade Bible study/lesson package (and you bet you can purchase your own Courageous companion book). As you'd expect, from an objective standpoint, these films, intended for a select audience of the converted, aren't paragons of film artistry. And the Kendrick brothers' last movie, 2008's Kirk Cameron vehicle Fireproof, was awful on just about every level of filmmaking. Courageous is a better film on every front, but "better" and "good" are not interchangeable descriptions.
In the small town of Albany, Georgia, a group of police officers have al come to a personal crossroads concerning fatherhood. Adam (Alex Kendrick, director and co-writer) has recently lost his 11-year-old daughter in a tragic car accident. Nathan (Ken Bevel) is trying to come to terms to forgive the absent father he never knew. He also has to protect his teen daughter from going out with a young boy who happens to be part of a gang. David (Ben Davies) is the rookie in the group with a shameful secret of his own, namely that he has a small daughter he abandoned with her mother. Javier (Robert Amaya) is struggling to find a stable job to support his wife and children. His wife fears they'll have no choice but to go back to their home country. Shane (Kevin Downes) is feeling the pressures of the job as well and making bad decisions that will catch up with him. The five gentlemen decide to make a public pledge and sign a written contract promising to be involved, loving, and responsible fathers for their families. But saying it and doing it is another matter.
As with most of the Christian-funded filmic efforts, the movie is secondary to the message. Unlike Fireproof, the filmmakers package their wholesome message in a far more easily digestible package. There are moments in the movie that work really well and ring true, mostly the struggle of overcoming grief at the loss of a child. Adam is told that losing a child has been compared to losing a limb (look out if you lose a limb and a child). It's not going to give Rabbit Hole a run for its money as far as psychological implications, but there are glimpses that feel like genuine and powerful drama. Whether Adam performing a dance with the memory of his deceased daughter is corny or emotional is up to you. Unfortunately, given the scattershot nature of the story, these moments only stay as moments, fleeting in their impact. But I was wholly surprised to even have anything genuine after the ridiculousness of Fireproof. Kendrick has improved as a filmmaker and his grasp on characterization is sharper; there are some nice moments of wry humor like when Adam keeps accidentally telling his chief he "loves him" (those declarations were intended for his wife on the other phone line). There's an amusing bit akin to a "who's on first?" routine as Adam mistakenly thinks Javier is another Javier he hired for some construction work. The struggle of an immigrant family hovering above the poverty line is a welcome storyline to a pretty middle-class point of view that dominates the story. I don't know if the Javier character completely works in the context of this story, but he's an amiable presence as he becomes an adopted member into the boys' club. The opening even has a rather exciting flash of action with Nathan holding onto his carjacker from outside the speeding vehicle. There's a foot chase that is crisply edited and filmed with a bit more flair than is normally accustomed to with these movies. It's something of a small miracle that Courageous seems to exist in a modestly recognizable universe.
While being easily the best movie yet to bear the Kendrick name, Courageous still has enough faults to limit its execution, likely only reaching those already converted to its Christian values. Subtlety is rarely a tactic employed in Kendrick's wheelhouse. As a result, everything can become rather ham-handed and message-laden. There are far too many different elements that just don't jibe together to form a cohesive whole; the movie feels like a series of anecdotes that occasionally collide together. The narrative is stuffed with the death of a child, the struggle of immigrant workers to find a foothold, parental abandonment and reconciliation, gang recruitment, and police corruption (if you're going to steal drugs from the evidence room, at least replace the weight value). They could have easily lost one of these guys from the plot, particularly the corrupt cop. There's too much going on for real narrative momentum to get going. Structurally, most of the movies conflicts are resolved before we even get into the meat of Act Three, leaving the movie to finish with a hasty shootout with gang members that feels arbitrary. I suppose the Kendrick brothers might argue that the gang members represent the tragic results of boys raised without strong paternal role models, but that's a rather simplified implication. And why does no one indignantly reject the idea that the death of a little girl was meant to propser greater goodness in the world? I would imagine a grieving parent, no matter their closeness with God, would feel some modicum of anger at the idea that their daughter needed to die for them to be a better person. Kendrick is not nearly a strong enough actor to sell the various ups and down his lead character endures.
But the biggest problem I have with the movie is that it posits that "Christian values" and "ethics" are synonymous. I have no beef with any religious belief that people rely upon to choose to be better, more caring, conscientious, and active people. However, I bristle with the notion that ONLY religion can give people the tools to achieve these ethical realizations. The group of characters sits around a barbeque and talk about religion, parenting, their own negligent fathers, but they present religion, and specifically Christianity, as the only solution to being a better person. I would argue that mankind can realize moral good and hold to a code ethics without the direct tutelage of Christianity. If this was the case, would this logical argument not suggest that portions of the world that favor other religions are wayward in any sense of moral reasoning and value? What about before Christianity came into being, all that B.C. part of the timeline? Surely Jews would kvetch that they didn't need Christianity to adhere to a moral order.
The movie's patriarchal insistence that men are the only guardians of their family seems ignorant. The women presented in Courageous are pretty much the doting types who wrap their arms around their husbands and remind them what good Godly men that are. The movie puts all the pressure onto the men, somehow missing the point that women can and should be a contributing force when it comes to rearing a family. While the Kendricks have plenty of statistics at hand about the significance of a father, the movie tacitly paints a portrait that a family is doomed when it falls under the complete stewardship of a mother. I'm not going to rip open a feminist rant because I don't find anything in Courageous to be insidious or malicious, though its depiction of black gang members seems a bit sketchy. I just think the overemphasis on spurring men into taking responsibility doesn't need to be at the expense of women giving up something. Parenting should be a shared responsibility and not something tagged to whomever holds the title of head of household. And as presented, the movie gives the fathers questionable levels of control. Nathan takes his teen daughter out to a fancy restaurant where he presents her with a fancy ring as a gift in exchange for dad being granted veto-power when it comes to potential boyfriends with no expiration date. I understand it's meant as a father caring for his daughter, but buying her a ring to celebrate her chastity seems incredibly creepy.
Courageous is an improved effort from the Kendrick brothers and their Sherwood Pictures production house. The movies may improve but they still remain subservient to a message, and the ticket-buyers who look forward to a positive affirmation of that message have fewer demands when it comes to characters, plot, direction, etc. The core audience has a high demand when it comes to spirituality, but I wish they had just as high demands for artistic quality. Why can't the faithful find inspiration from a movie that isn't so on-the-nose? Are my only choices when it comes to depictions of spirituality the bludgeoning type (Fireproof, Left Behind) or the esoteric (The Tree of Life)? Good intentions can only get you so far, and while its core message that men need to be responsible and step it up when it comes to parenting is valid, the rest of the movie jangles with some questionable representations and moral simplification. If people feel truly inspired by these movies to better themselves, then that's a commendable effect but it doesn't make the movie any better. At one point a character says that his father was "good enough." Adam responds, "Well, I don't want to be just a 'good enough' father." Well, to many Courageous will be a "good enough" Christian drama. To me, mediocrity knows no one faith.
Nate's Grade: C+
Honor Begins At Home
Good movie! This movie should inspire everyone to be the best you can be. Don't miss it.
As law enforcement officers, Adam Mitchell, Nathan Hayes, and their partners are confident and focused. They willingly stand up to the worst the world can offer. Yet when they take off their badges at the end of the day, they face a challenge that none of them are truly prepared to tackle: fatherhood. While they consistently give their best on the job, good enough seems to be all they can muster as dads. But they're quickly discovering that their standard is missing the mark. They know that God desires to turn the hearts of fathers to their children, but their children are beginning to drift further and further away from them. Will they be able to find a way to serve and protect those that are most dear to them? When tragedy hits home, these men are left wrestling with their hopes, their fears, their faith, and their fathering. Can a newfound urgency help these dads draw closer to God ... and to their children? Courageous is the fourth release of Sherwood Pictures, the moviemaking ministry of Sherwood Church in Albany, Georgia. Their first release since FIREPROOF, the No. 1 independent film of 2008, Courageous joins Facing the Giants and Flywheel in touching and impacting lives through heartfelt stories of faith and hope. Moviegoers will again find themselves crying, laughing, and cheering-sometimes simultaneously-as they are inspired by everyday heroes who long to be the kinds of dads that make a lifelong impact on their children. Protecting the streets is second nature to these law enforcement officers. Raising their children? That will take courage. Courageous ... honor begins at home.
actual, real-life conversation i had with ticket-guy at my hometown theater:
"Hey, um.. do you know what this movie is about? cause the poster is just four guys standing."
"Yea, its a christian movie."
"ok, cool. awesome... can you tell me what its about though?
"Like Fireproof.. you know Fireproof?
"No, i've never seen Fireproof.. whats that about?"
"Look man, the.. it... its a christian thing. its like Fireproof."
"well, thank you for that... two please!"
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