What happens when you make a movie with no substance or style and instead focus simply on a message? You get “God’s Not Dead.” When you do it again, you get “God’s Not Dead 2.”
The sequel tells the story of Grace Wesley (Melissa Joan Hart), a devout Christian and high school history teacher. During one of her lessons she’s asked a question about the similarities between quotes from Jesus and Martin Luther King Jr.
Because of a subsequent series of developments, Grace soon finds herself in court with Ray Wise playing a lawyer named Peter Kane who also happens to be an atheist completely obsessed with proving that “God is dead.”
This sequel is more or less a remake of the first picture, using the exact same structure. There’s a core conflict between a Christian and an atheist or group of atheists, and meanwhile there are some extra subplots that sort of tie in with the main conflict, but not really.
One of the major issues with the the picture as a whole is that the core conflict seems like such a huge mountain out of a molehill scenario, with a situation that could have probably been resolved with a parent teacher conference getting dragged into an drama-filled court room setting.
The entire thing feels over the top and unreal since none of the characters are portrayed as level headed people.
Meanwhile there are some completely unnecessary subplots which feel shoehorned into the picture for the singular reason of unnecessarily extending the film’s run time to more than two hours.
For example, there are a couple subplots continued from the first movie following a college student and a journalist, that don’t add much, if anything, to the main story.
Another example is a subplot centered on a character played by David A.R. White. There are actually two story threads with White’s character, but for whatever reason, one of these threads abruptly stops and the other one is never even resolved. It makes a person ask why his character was in the film in the first place.
The acting meanwhile is weak across the board, with characters just being over the top or going through the motions as archetypes. Hart spends most of the movie with a blubbering face, Ernie Hudson plays a horribly unrealistic judge and Ray Wise played his role so cartoonishly evil that the character may have well been a James Bond villain.
The performances aren’t that surprising, though, since the script portrays these characters less like real, sensible people and more like props to deliver arguments.
It’s not even like there’s a problem with making films that explore aspects of faith either. Other movies like “The Book of Eli,” “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspien” and even biblical epics such as the animated feature “The Prince of Egypt” have approached the subject with a subtle, level approach and were actually focused on making good film-making, too.
“God’s Not Dead 2” on the other hand comes together for a picture with a very direct message, but doesn’t even attempt to offer any nuance, middle ground or understanding between two sides. On top of that, there’s the bad dialogue, forgettable acting and disjointed storytelling. 1 out of 5.