REVIEW: ‘The Case For Christ’ is entertaining, educational and uplifting
Engaging plot and strong acting shatter common concerns about faith-based films
April 6th, 2017 / By: Michael Foust / comments
Lee is a tough, hard-nosed young reporter for an award-winning newspaper who always is looking for a good story.
And that, he tells his colleagues, requires a dogged hunt for the truth, which is found only “through facts.”
“Facts are our greatest weapon against superstition, against ignorance and ignorance tyranny,” he says.
He doesn’t define “superstition,” but those close to him know what he means. Lee is an atheist. He has atheist friends, married an unbelieving woman and intends to raise an atheist child.
But his worldview is soon challenged at a restaurant, when his young daughter begins choking on food and a stranger sitting at an adjacent table helps the girl start breathing again. The stranger, a middle-aged woman, tells Lee that she nearly didn’t come to the restaurant that night. The implication: If she hadn’t changed her mind, the girl might be dead.
“It wasn’t luck. It was Jesus,” the woman says.
Lee isn’t convinced, but his wife is. Soon, she’s attending church with the woman, and a short while later, she becomes a Christian. Shocked but unfazed, Lee sets out to “save” his wife from this so-called myth by disproving Christianity—applying the just-the-facts approach that turned him into a respected journalist.
The Case For Christ (PG) opens in theaters this weekend, recounting the incredible tale of Lee Strobel’s journey in the early 1980s from radical atheist to sold-out Christian apologist. He interviewed a dozen scholars in his search for the truth and—much to his surprise—concluded that the evidence for Christ’s resurrection is overwhelming. The film borrows its name from his bestselling book.
It will play in roughly 1,100 theaters nationwide and includes an impressive cast: Mike Vogel (Cloverfield, The Help) as Strobel; Erika Christensen (Parenthood) as his wife, Leslie; Mike Pniewski (Madam Secretary, Blue Bloods, and Killing Reagan) as Lee’s Christian co-worker, Kenny; and Academy Award winner Faye Dunaway as scholar Roberta Waters.
I was skeptical that The Case For Christ could be turned into an enjoyable film but was pleasantly surprised with the on-screen product. It is one of the best films I’ve seen this year, masterfully weaving a spoonful of apologetics into an engaging plot that will leave moviegoers entertained, educated and perhaps even inspired. Acting also is a strength.
But is it OK for the entire family? Will children get bored? And will mom and dad enjoy it? Let’s examine the film in more detail …
Warning: minor spoilers!
It’s difficult to watch The Case For Christ and not be impressed with Strobel’s journalistic skills—no matter the subject. That’s significant, because it forms the basis for his entire life story. We see him interview an accused shooter in jail and a policeman in the hospital. We then watch him crack a case that lands his story on the front page of the Chicago Tribune. People in the newsroom respect him. Later, though, we watch as Strobel gets the facts wrong in a major story—an action that implies he could be wrong about his opinion on Christianity.
The Case For Christ shines in its presentation of apologetics—which is no easy feat in a drama. It succeeds partially because filmmakers limited Strobel’s on-screen interviews with scholars to about five (instead of 12) and because the interactions are mostly brief. It seems natural, and not clunky and academic.
The apologetics angle also works because it doesn’t dominate the film. The movie has at least three other angles: his struggling marriage, his rocky relationship with his father, and his big-city newspaper day job.
The film demonstrates how the testimony and action of just a handful of people can impact someone for Christ. The stranger-turned-friend leads Leslie Strobel to Christ, and she in turn starts her husband on a path that changes his life forever.
“She’s different,” an unbelieving Strobel tells a friend.
A Christian co-worker also has a major influence on him.
Finally, any movie set in the 1970s or early 1980s is bound to be fun. The film crew gets the details of this quirky era just-right—right down to people using beepers and not wearing seatbelts.
The Case For Christ contains no sexuality, language or violence. Parents, though, should be aware of a handful of scenes, covered in The Verdict (below).
The Verdict: OK for Kids?
This is one of those rare films that parents may want to drag their kids to (instead of vice versa). Here’s what parents need to know: Strobel at one point drinks and gets drunk at home, and he and his wife have an intense argument. (There’s no violence.) He shouts at his father and says a few things he later regrets. A family member dies. Of course, Strobel’s unbelief is a major theme, and at times he’s just a bad husband. (“You are on your own,” he tells his wife.)
I definitely would take my 9-year-old to The Case For Christ. As for my 5-year-old twins? I don’t know. Honestly, I wonder if they’d be bored.
What did you learn about the evidence for Christianity? What evidence did you find most convincing? Should Christians embrace facts, as Strobel did? What had a greater impact on Strobel—his wife or his investigation? Do you think Strobel had any regrets? (What were they?) Is there such a thing as a coincidence? What is the role of apologetics in witnessing? Is apologetics “proof” for Christianity, or is Scripture sufficient?
Entertainment rating: 4 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.
The Case For Christ is rated PG for thematic elements including medical descriptions of crucifixion, and incidental smoking.