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Faith of Our Fathers – a.k.a. To the Wall (2015)

| June 24, 2015 | 0 Comments

I have no objection to the output of PureFlix Entertainment. Christian movie goers should have their films on the big screen just as much as fans of horror or comedy or action pictures. The writers and directors of the films put out by PureFlix have set out on a mission, to give a forgotten audience a voice on the big screen. Fine, but for Heaven’s sake, PLEASE send these people to film school! Over the last two years I’ve sat through movie after movie from PureFlix and they all seem to have the same problem: they are dry, limp, dumbbell T.V. movie-style productions featuring bad actors reciting bad dialogue – like a church play put on by people who didn’t show up for rehearsal.

This should not be construed as a knee-jerk reaction to Christian films. I support Christian films, but a bad movie is a bad movie no matter what it’s about. I’m looking squarely at The Book of Esther (2013), Gods Not Dead (2014), Do Your Believe? (2015) and PureFlix’s latest head-scratcher Faith of Our Fathers.

I actually saw this movie at a special screening back in January when it was called To the Wall. Why the title was changed I don’t know. To the Wall isn’t any better, but its much easier to remember. Faith of Our Fathers too closely resembles Flags of Our Fathers, the Clint Eastwood movie that you should watch instead. Both movies are ostensibly about soldiers who fought and died in American conflicts. Eastwood’s film was about the soldiers at Iwo Jima. The PureFlix film is sort-of about soldiers in Vietnam, but spends an exhaustive amount of time as a goofball road comedy.

The story of Faith of our Fathers/To the Wall is, at its heart, about reconnection. It begins with a good-hearted guy named John Paul George (Kevin Downes) – that’s actually what people call him – whose father was a soldier in Vietnam who never made it home. What he left for his son was a pack of letters that John Paul George has held onto for all these years. Spurred by a desire to find out what happened to him, John Paul George heads east to get information from a veteran who served with his dad during the war

Now, here’s what you should know about John Paul George – he’s a doofus. I’m not being mean, he walks through this movie with the same expression my dog gives me when I hide the tennis ball behind my back. He does things that no sane human being would do on a road trip, like letting a pair of strangers borrow the car when they ask for help. He trusts quite a few people in this movie that he really shouldn’t. I understand the need for a trusting nature but it wouldn’t have been out of character for John Paul George to enter this film falling off a turnip truck.

John Paul George’s plans hit a snag when he meets the son of the man his dad served with. He is Wayne (David A.R. White) a strange individual who seemed to have mimicked his personality on a bad Nick Nolte impression. I’m not kidding, White affects a gravelly voice and a haircut that might be at home on an bad SNL sketch. It’s a bad performance – really bad.

Naturally, the two don’t trust each other. John Paul George is the good-hearted dope, and Wayne is the cynic who lives in a trailer and seems to live for the singular purpose of being mad at the world. Reluctantly, they decide to help each other. They decided to take a road trip to the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C.  Can two walking cliches share a road trip without driving each other crazy? What do you think?

The present-day scenes with Wayne and John Paul George are inter-cut with scenes of Wayne’s dad in Vietnam back in 1969 – which look like they were filmed in someone’s back yard (I swear the platoon passes the same tree four times!).  John Paul George’s father is named Steven (Sean McGowan) and writes letters back home to his infant son. His platoon is led by Sergeant Mansfield (Stephen Baldwin) who – not to give too much away – provides the film’s most baffling development. He becomes a human connection between John Paul George and his father that I’m pretty sure involved a time machine.

No matter who made Faith of Our Fathers/To the Wall and for what purpose, this is a bad movie – really bad, laughably bad. The production values seem borrowed “The Beverly Hillbillies” up to, and including, the moving back projection during the driving scenes. The screenplay is all over the place. Every development is painfully convenient and the story moves back and forth between pathos and slapstick comedy almost at random, dealing with two characters that are so badly written and acted that they seem like Looney Tunes characters.

I realize that I could be accused of beating up a film that is not my taste. On the contrary, I’ve liked religious themed movies in the past. But I like films that are well made and that have a point of view. I also realize that my taste in religious films leans more toward films that challenge me, like The Rapture, The Passion of the Christ, The Last Temptation of Christ and even parts of Heaven is for Real. Even Oh God! had a nice message. But Faith of Our Fathers/To the Wall is an aggravating mess. It wants to be a screwball comedy and a heart-rending message about fathers and sons. Pick one guys, you can’t have both.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2015) View IMDB Filed in: Comedy, Drama, Recent, War