Following is a review of the new movie, "God's Not Dead," by Westport News reviewer Susan Granger:
Why the sudden proliferation of Christian movies? Have Hollywood's heathens been converted? Not likely. Biblical films have been around as long as the movie business; back in 1927, "The King of Kings" depicted Mary Magdalene's liaison with Judas Iscariot. In recent decades, evangelical Christians have become voracious media consumers; Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" remains the highest-grossing independent film ever.
But this maudlin melodrama is not only forgettable, but also unlikely. Josh Wheaton (Shane Harper) is a pre-law student who enrolls in a philosophy class taught by arrogant Professor Radisson (Kevin Sorbo). On the first day, Radisson outlines the philosophers they'll be studying, all of whom are atheists -- and insists that each student sign a pledge asserting: "God is dead." Immediately, the proselytizing concept loses credibility because no teacher at a legitimate academic institution would make that demand, augmenting it with the threat of failure in the course.
As a devout Christian, Josh cannot comply, despite protests from his girlfriend (Cassidy Gifford, daughter of Kathie Lee and Frank Gifford). When Professor Radisson demeans religion as "primitive superstition," Josh decides to defend his principles in a mock trial with fellow students serving as the jury. While Josh's support of God's existence is intelligent and thought-provoking, too little time is spent on theology. Instead, non-Christians are portrayed as loathsome and self-centered. There's a corporate exec (Dean Cain) who ditches his cancer-stricken girlfriend (Trisha LaFache) and refuses to visit his mother who is suffering from dementia. And a Muslim father (Dean Cain) whose daughter (Hadeel Sittu) is banished for her beliefs.
Written by Chuck Konzelman and Cary Solomon and directed by Harold Cronk, it's contrived and undeniably amateurish, including a cameo from "Duck Dynasty" star Willie Robertson.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "God's Not Dead" is an implausible 3, likely to please only the faithful -- with a host of Christian-centric movies to follow, including "Left Behind" with Nicolas Cage as a commercial airline pilot caught in the wake of the Rapture.