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Article by Teddy Durgin

Do you believe? And if so, can you sit through this movie?

With the box office success of movies like "God's Not Dead" and "Heaven Is For Real," Christian-themed movies are now getting major play at cineplexes locally and nationwide. As a Christian, I'm always torn a bit by my duties as a professional reviewer tasked with giving an accurate assessment of each film's artistic merit and my inherent love of "The Message," no matter how clumsily delivered at times. The latest example is titled "Do You Believe?" And while this 1,300-screen release is an exceedingly noble effort to tell a "Magnolia"-like tale of interlocking storylines that all come together at the end during one spectacular shared event, I can't quite sign off on this one because... well... the film is really, REALLY hard to trudge through for about an hour and 45 minutes to get to the big climax. The kaleidoscope of characters here all have one thing in common - they each are undergoing a crisis of faith. And that can indeed make for compelling drama. The problem is... everyone's crisis in this movie is so bleepin' DIRE! There's no relief from these folks' woes and misery, not a single storyline among the dozen or so that adds a bit of light humor to the proceedings - like in "God's Not Dead" with the pastor having constant car troubles. OK, here's the lineup for tonight's game, folks. One character is dying of leukemia. Another is an EMT who is persecuted for sharing his faith with a dying man. Still another is a street thug on the run from stealing a drug dealer's money and also hunted by his gangsta brother accomplice. Then, there is the homeless widow caring for her angelic little girl with a high fever, and the homeless, unwed, pregnant teen not knowing whether to keep her baby or put it up for adoption. There's a middle-aged couple who have been unable to conceive a child, and a senior couple who lost their only daughter years earlier to a drunk driver. And, of course, there's the soldier just back from the Middle East suffering from PTSD. His only friend? A young suicidal woman who comes to the same bridge that he does to contemplate jumping off. It's a bit much, despite some nice performances by the likes of Mira Sorvino, Sean Astin and such former "Love Boat" passengers as Lee Majors, Cybill Shepherd and Ted McGinley. You can still have a crisis of faith and not be in such bleak circumstances. Maybe you just work in an office with a bunch of jerk-weeds who make you question whether there is a just and omnipresent Maker. Or maybe you are a believer, but your spouse and kid just want to go restaurant hopping every Sunday morning in search of the perfect brunch buffet. Had the filmmakers here given us just a little bit of levity, it would have really benefited their movie. There's also a late miracle that happens in this film that I really don't think was necessary. In fact, I think more could have been learned by the characters AND the audience about faith and God if this miracle did NOT happen. But, hey, what do I know? Sixteen years ago this December, I gave a rave, RAVE review to "Magnolia" - a movie that climaxed with a storm of... uh... frogs raining down on the entire cast of characters and changing their lives. I miss those croakers.


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