Reel Reviews: Films for Easter

By on April 12, 2017

‘The Case for Christ’

There’s no denying the new Christian movement at the box office. What was once limited in the mainstream to the feel-good, subtle-natured comedies from Tyler Perry (“Madea’s Family Reunion”) now encapsulates a growing trend. Theatergoers want to see movies with strong Christian values and religious themes (see “The Shack,” below).

I decided to see “The Case for Christ” for two reasons: 1) Easter is coming and what could be a more timely fit for a Reel Reviews column than Christian movies? 2) The trailer looked great! Oh, and I’m a huge Faye Dunaway fan!

I went in expecting a Dan Brown-ish science-based, action packed, mystery centered on the crucifixion of Christ. That’s not what I saw.

“The Case for Christ” is the true story of self-described Atheist-turned-Christian Lee Strobel (Mike Vogel, “Cloverfield”), whose early journalistic work garnered him regional fame around Chicago. During a night out with his wife, Leslie (Erika Christensen, “Traffic”), the couple’s young daughter nearly chokes before she is saved by a nurse dining at the same restaurant. Leslie comes to believe the nurse’s intervention was an act of God and in response Strobel sets out to find evidence denying the resurrection of Christ.

The science is simply piecemealed into the narrative, the gooey stuffing inside a preachy cookie shell. It is faith that allows us to believe in a higher being, but no amount of faith could make me believe these actors. The lines were forced and the emotions so contrite I couldn’t wait to see the credits roll. In the end I felt like I was watching an infomercial as the credits offered up real-life photos and back story on Lee Strobel, plus a look at his current endeavors.

Octavia Spencer, who won an Oscar and a Golden Globe for her performance in “The Help,” portrays Papa in “The Shack.”

Octavia Spencer, who won an Oscar and a Golden Globe for her performance in “The Help,” portrays Papa in “The Shack.”

‘The Shack’

After six weeks in theaters “The Shack” is still bringing in crowds. The Netter Productions and Summit Entertainment film has brought in $54,961,078 — a paltry sum compared to big blockbusters, but a wonderful feat for a relatively unknown movie –and sits in the 15th spot on the box office list, crushing more recent releases like “T2: Trainspotting” and “The Belko Experiment.”

“The Shack” has survived against movies with bigger budgets and developed a buzz, rightly so as it features Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer (“The Help,” “Hidden Figures”) and English hero-actor Sam Worthington (“Avatar,” “Clash of the Titans”). I knew nothing about this movie going in, but I was pleasantly surprised going out!

Worthington is Mack Phillips who has trouble adjusting to life after his youngest daughter, Missy (Amélie Eve), is kidnapped and murdered under his watch during a family camping trip. His family of four is tearing apart when Mack finds a mysterious letter in his mailbox. It is signed by Papa, his wife’s Nan (played by Radha Mitchell, “Man on Fire”) term of endearment for God; the missive requests the struggling father return to the scene of Missy’s murder, an abandoned shack in the middle of rugged woodland. But, in an almost sci-fi turn of events, the shack turns out to be a gateway to a mystical place where he meets Papa, her son (a.k.a. Jesus Christ played by Israeli actor Avraham Aviv Alush), and Sarayu (played by Japanese artist Sumire Matsubara), the physical manifestation of the Holy Spirit. In the company of those at the shack, Mack learns… well, I’ll not spoil everything.

If the be-all, end-all message in “The Shack” is that we should not judge others (even God) I think everyone could benefit from spending 132 minutes in the theater with this film.

Agree or disagree? Reel Reviews works like this: 1) Watch a movie; 2) Send suggestions, comments and criticism to Michael at

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