LOS ANGELES, October 30, 2013 — In the realm of faith-based films, the track record has been mixed with regard to the quality and ultimate success of film projects created in this genre.The most successful such films like “Fireproof,” “Facing The Giants” and “Courageous” have pushed the bar of religious filmmaking to higher levels and expectations.
“I’m In Love With A Church Girl” can now be added to that list of those better films pushing the bar higher. From the film’s fresh subject matter to the surprise casting to the great music scoring, “I’m In Love With A Church Girl” is a nice surprise for audiences seeking alternative storylines and new approaches at their local theatre.
Loosely based on the true-life story of Galley Molina (the film’s screenwriter and inspiration), the film recounts Mr. Molina’s life as an up-and-coming drug dealer and his life-changing meeting and romancing of a “Church Girl” named Vanessa (played by Adrienne Bailon).
The magnetic Miss Bailon owns each scene that she is in and elevates the material past stereotypes or cliché.Her co-star, rapper Jeff “Ja Rule,” Atkins (playing Miles Montego) and actor Stephen Baldwin (playing Agent Josh McDaniels) help make “I’m In Love With A Church Girl” the most Hollywood of Un-Hollywood films.
Screenwriter Galley appears in the film himself, and his story doesn’t shy away from depicting the “Thug Life,” nor from showing how a person can struggle to accept his or her belief in a Higher Power as their world collapses around them.
Mr. Molina and his director, Steven Race, admirably do not go for the Disney effect here. Instead they deliver a real story that will likely achieve the filmmaker’s spiritual goals as well as film-goers’ cinematic expectations.Amid the faith-based, positive messaging there are some scenes with alcohol, guns, mentions of drugs, sexy costumes and fast cars.Presumably, this is all to make sure that we know that Miles Montego is a legit bad guy and a successful one at that.
What was interesting at times, was the extent of Vanessa’s wardrobe choices, as she was definitely costumed to portray a sexy “Church Girl” and not the wall-flower, modest type.
Admittedly, the constraints of appealing to a faith-based film market must have hampered some of the screenwriting or editing in order to gain this film its PG-rating.Indeed, at times here are some questionable lines of dialogue and storylines clearly employed to help keep the story “clean” enough for its core audiences and that key, squeaky-clean PG rating.
The surprise casting of Stephen Baldwin, Michael Madsen and Vincent Pastore contributes greatly toward the quality of the film. However, one wishes that Baldwin’s on-screen investigation partner (after Michael Madsen exits) were a stronger and more challenging actor.The crime investigation and interrogation scenes are among the film’s strongest and reminds audiences just why Stephen is the second-best actor in the Baldwin family.
“I’m In Love With A Church Girl” has a gritty, urban feel that merges well with the film’s uplifting, redemptive storyline.“Ja Rule” may not be the first rapper or rock star to make a leap into acting, but he might be the first to do so in a faith-based film. He makes an impressive leap here, and by the end of the film, he stretches his acting chops as he pushes Miles Montego’s character to his spiritual limits.
“Ja Rule” (as Miles) is at his best in a “yelling at God” scene, which is key to his redemption and helps to guide what could have been a pedestrian faith-based movie into a much better than average production. This film should do very well with church groups, but it does have a chance for some cross-over appeal particularly for fans of Ja Rule and Baldwin.
Rating: *** (3 out of 4 stars)
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