Facing the Giants

Earnest intentions do not always make for the best movies.  Take Facing the Giants.  This movie was funded primarily by members of the Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia.  Church members compromise the cast, and most people volunteered their time.  The aim was to make a movie that was inspirational, entertaining, and "safe" for Christians to watch.  The result is a movie that mixes tired Christian film cliches with even more tired football film cliches into one large predictable mess.  And it's not even based on a true story.  It's hard to criticize films like these, especially one made by church volunteers.  But it's one thing to make a film that will make people smile in Sunday School, and another to make a film that non-Christians, football fans, or whoever, can enjoy.

The primary problem with Facing the Giants is that nobody ever sees the team practice until they give their lives to God.  Grant Taylor (Alex Kendrick, who also wrote and directed the film) is coach for the losing Shiloh Eagles of Shiloh Christian Academy (the smartest decision was to place the film in a Christian school, where the proselytizing would seem more normal than at a secular school).  He is looking for a way to win, and decides to change the way the team thinks about football.  Win or lose, they would do their best, and the rest is up to God.  Then they start practicing.  Wouldn't any sensible coach practice more if his team lost?  It makes sense from an inspiration standpoint that once the team dedicates itself to God, they would start winning games.  But from a reasonable standpoint, it seems a bit lame.  The beginning of Facing the Giants shows montages of fumbles, missed passes, and interceptions.  Later montages show the team hard at practice, then winning.  Did they practice before?  Is it truly a matter of dedicating oneself to God, or just trying as hard as possible?

Worse is that Kendrick and co-writer Stephen Kendrick load up with script with as many cliches as possible.  Given that with football and religion there are already two too many, this is a bad idea.  Taylor's job is on the line unless he starts winning.  His car is about to die.  He cannot pay the bills.  His wife Brooke (Shannen Fields) cannot conceive (but she only works 6 hours a week, hello?  Little more work, little more money...).  A new kicker cannot kick the ball far and has little faith.  His father is in a wheelchair.  Another player doesn't get along with his father.  A third has attitude problems and does bad in academics.  There are even more examples.  The Kendricks tackle each one with a happy ending, which begins to get extremely annoying.  Any possibility of making this film a feel-good movie is buried under a ton of cheap attempts at emotion.

The acting is okay.  Kendrick isn't that great at handling emotions like sadness, but does decently as a coach.  The other actors fare decently for amateurs.  There is nothing memorable here, but also nothing embarrassing, and light touches of humor help a bit.  Facing the Giants doesn't have the "cheap" look that some other recent Christian films have had (One Night with the King a big exception).  The football is decent, although watching some of the players pretend to be bad near the beginning is a bit obvious.  In a season with far too many football films, all arriving in theaters in close proximity (Gridiron Gang, Invincible), each film needs to be different in order to be noticed.  Facing the Giants is different, but not necessarily in a good way.

Mongoose Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 51 minutes, Rated PG for some thematic elements.

Back to Movies