The Pretender Reviews
We start with Keith, the kind of guy you warned your daughters about. When the new school year starts, he and his friends scope out the chicks, determining whether or not they are worth pursuing. Keith is quite the ladies' man, if you catch my drift. What's his secret? Well, I'll tell you. He finds out what they really like, you see, like this one girl liked art. Okay, so he goes to a couple of museums, studies up on art a little bit, and then begins talking to her about a couple of famous pieces, talk a little bit of the jargon at 'em. Before you know it, bada-bing-bada-boom, she thinks he's perfect and he beds her and leaves her. It's a foolproof process, and this year Keith has just the fool to try it out on: Dana.
Dana is a Christian, and so Keith decides that he will pretend to be a Christian in order to get her in the sack. Of course, the words "sack", "bed", and "bada-bang" are never uttered in this film. We've got to keep up appearances, after all. Anywho, Keith's friends are very opposed to the idea of trying to trick Dana. After Keither tells his friends about the girl who liked art and the girl who liked jazz, they say, "Dana's not an idiot like those other girls." Ha!
Keither is undeterred, and pairs up with an ex-friend of his named Frank. Frank used to run with Keith's crowd, back when Frank was one of those immoral young lads that cares about nothing but sex drugs and rock'n'roll. But since then, Frank has found Je-sus and gotten right with God... so of course Keith is looking for advice on how to pretend to be Christian from Frank.
As an aside, I couldn't stop thinking of the line from M*A*S*H: "Frank, did you crack up over here or were you on this religious kick back at home?"
This Frank cracked up at home. And because all you need is facade of sincerity to be a good Christian, Keith easily convinces Frank of his sudden change of heart. And before long, he has convinced Dana of the same. He'll meet with Frank after school, get a few choice quotes or verses to repeat with Dana, and he seems like he's the model of upright Christianhood.
Amazing how easy it is, ain't it? In fact, Keith keeps mentioning just how easy it is to be a Christian. "It's not hard," he tells his friends, "all you gotta do is learn a couple Bible verses and stay out of trouble." Or at least don't get caught. When Keith manages to fool an entire congregation into thinking he is revved up for the lord aw-mighty Je-sus the Christ, he even says that he's thinking of becoming a preacher because of how easy it is just to fake it.
Maybe that's the point of the movie, then. Maybe The Pretender is just as sinister as any of the Christianos' other films. What sounds to me (a rationalist and materialist) like poorly-written lines that accidentally make fun of religion, may actually be intended to scare the Christian viewers into distrusting even their own blood brothers. After all, anybody could be lying to you. Anybody could be just trying to get into your pants... even your own priest.
Yes, I'll take any opportunity to make a joke, no matter how easy it is.
NOT THAT YOU ARE EVER GOING TO WATCH THIS MOVIE, BUT THERE ARE SPOILERS BELOW...
How do you suppose a movie about a guy who pretends to be a Christian will end? You're probably expecting that Keith will see the errors of his ways, actually find a relationship with Je-sus the Christ, and become the great Christian that he has been pretending to be all along, right? I know that's what I was thinking. Boy, what I surprised by what actually happened...
Frank finds that Keith has been lying to Dana and is intent on intervening in his, ahem, best-laid plans. He rushes as quickly as he can to Keith's house before Keith has the opportunity to, ahem, have wild and unholy sex-before-marriage with the innocent Dana (who, need I remind you, is NOT an idiot like those other girls!). When Frank arrives at Keith's house, Keith has actually already worn down Dana's defenses some and gotten in a few smooches. Is that kosher? Or did Dana just buy a one-way ticket straight to hell with that lip-smacking? I need somebody to explain all these rules to me better. Luckily, though, Keith has not yet been able to do the dirty deed with his lucky lady friend.
Frank bursts into the house and insists that Dana jump in his car so that he can take her for a ride and, ahem, "explain" some things to her. She is a little bit too quick to shout enthusiastically, "Okay!"
Fast-forward to the beginning of the next school year. Keith is still scoping out chicks with his buddies when he sees Dana. They share a brief glance. Later, Frank approaches Keith and asks him whether he feels sorry for what he did. "She really liked you," he says. Keith is unaffected by this news. That's when Frank gets to the real reason he has approached Keith: "Man, you were so close to accepting Jesus into your heart. If you had only given it all up and repented for your sins."
Frank begins to walk away. But before he can round the corner, Keith calls out to him -- using a line that Frank had said earlier in the film:
"If I ever come to Christ, I'll come all the way."
Take a moment to laugh at the word 'come' if you must. Then, notice the very vital word if. This is one Christian movie where the protagonist is not swayed by the loving (or, in the Christiano Brothers' world, vengeful) nature of Je-sus the Christ. Instead of being convinced that he has been sinning his life away by some stupid argument, this movie is content to let its protagonist say that IF he ever becomes a Christian, he will not be a half-way Christian. That's interesting, because from what I've seen of Christian movies -- especially those made by the Christiano clan -- anybody who does not fall in line is often thought of as an enemy.
Of course, while writing this review, I did come to the realization that this is likely supposed to be be a fear tactic for the parents who see this movie and aren't telling their children about the people at church who SAY that they're Christians, but really only want to get you full of liquor and tobacco. The intended audience of this movie isn't surprised as how realistic and human the protagonist turned out to be at the end, no, they're screaming in terror at the fact that he's still a sex-crazed instrument of Satan.
So I guess it all depends on your perspective.
The Pretender is by no means a good movie, but for what it is... well, it defied my expectations. Whether it exceeded them is another story. But it certainly defied them.