Joshua marks the first overtly Christian movie to not be horrible. Maybe it's because the makers of this movie had no association with TBN, the company responsible for some of the worst (and unintentionally the funniest) feature film releases in recent years. It is a simple story reminiscent of another religious film from years ago, The Judas Project. With each additional film, religious filmmakers are improving their techniques, slowly making films that are increasingly watchable. Joshua does what few other "Christian" films do, and that is to make no effort to hide its religion (although, like in most other genre films there is no mention of some dude named Jesus). This is a refreshing change of pace from the films, and automatically sets a stake in the ground as to where the movie's beliefs lie. Director Jon Purdy (Star Portal, Unabomber) undoes most of this by using a tone so earnest that it comes near to the point of being annoying, simplistic characterizations, and the story's desire to take on a larger scope as it progresses.

The events in the movie revolve around Joshua (Tony Goldwyn, An American Rhapsody, Bounce), a mysterious stranger that appears one day in the small town of Auburn. Joshua is taciturn, answers most questions obliquely, and only wants to help. He is a carpenter, and decides to begin rebuilding a burnt-down Baptist church. As soon as he arrives, his presence immediately begins to make a difference. And all he does is walk around and talk to people. As he speaks and makes friends, everybody's life begins to change for the better. Father Pat Hayes (Kurt Fuller, The New Guy, Scary Movie) likes the change that Joshua is instilling. He feels that Auburn is truly becoming a community. His superior, Father Tardone (F. Murray Abraham, Thirteen Ghosts, Finding Forrester) thinks that Joshua is starting a cult, and resents the immediate acceptance that the community gives Joshua.

Joshua, based on the novel by Joseph F. Girzone and adapted by Brad Mirman (Gideon, Resurrection) and Keith Giglio (Noah) has only one direction to go. Joshua's life (and even some of his dialogue) is similar to that of Jesus, and Tardone is the Pharisee-like characters. In this respect, Purdy marches Joshua to its conclusion, escalating things along the way to a level that really doesn't make any sense. The story alludes to the life of Christ a few too many times, putting forth obvious examples of how Joshua will heal people. A man (Eddie Bo Smith, Jr, Ali, Novocaine) stutters, yet wants to be a preacher. Maggie (Stacy Edwards, Driven, The Next Best Thing) is still mourning the death of her husband, and Joan (Colleen Camp, Rat Race, Someone Like You) is in a loveless marriage. Even Father Pat lacks the confidence he feels he needs to be a successful preacher. Joshua just arrives and soon everything is peachy-keen. This happens a little too easily, removing any sort of dramatic tension. The only tension there is exists in the mind of Tardone, whom Purdy paints almost like a spoiled child not getting his way.

The overall quality of Joshua is disappointing given some of the names in the cast. Along with Abraham, and to a certain extent, Goldwyn is the excellent actor Giancarlo Giannini (CQ, Hannibal), who has a small role and essentially does nothing. Abraham has the most work to do, but it consists mostly of glaring. Joshua's lack of action comes mostly from Goldwyn's performance, or lack of one. His Joshua has no real personality, and serves more like a cipher for the town to channel their thoughts through. After a while, it becomes boring watching Joshua walk around. Most of the "preaching" is at a minimum, usually coming in short phrases from Joshua, and it actually integrates decently into the story. There are lighthearted attempts at humor with mixed results, but there is a pervading sense of community and friendship, which is what makes Joshua seem a little better than it actually is. In the end, the Purdy turns up the sappiness and melodrama such that most people will be turned off by the lovey-dovey emotions, but overall, it is another step forward.

Mongoose Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 30 minutes, Rated G.

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