[Nightmarish Detour Review] FAITH BASED

A concept that’s generally lost on us, in the current moment, is that it is possible to be critical without being mean-spirited. It’s possible to engage in some friendly ribbing or thoughtful critique, and to do so without being incendiary by default. We’ve gotten away from that in our current culture and FAITH BASED is the shepherd that hopes to steer us back.

Two childhood best friends, Luke and Tanner, are in a bit of rut. They’re both working dead end jobs and while Tanner is comfortable in his immature existence, Luke hopes for something more. Luke is drawn to get rich schemes, like hocking weight-loss tea within a pyramid scheme, and aspires to the lifestyle of the tea company’s CEO (played by Jason Alexander). 

Meanwhile Luke’s dad, the pastor of the local church, is disappointed in his son’s stunted growth and wants Luke to pursue a better life in all respects. The pressures of his father, the desire to be successful, and Luke’s penchant for taking shortcuts eventually culminate in the ideal project… shooting a low-budget Christian movie and raking in the ticket sales of the genre’s devoted masses. Armed with zero experience, no budget to speak of, and an absence of religious faith, Luke and Tanner set out on a Hail Mary of an idea.

FAITH BASED is directed by Vincent Masciale with a screenplay by Luke Barnett (who also stars in the film). The cast features Tanner Thomason, Jason Alexander, Margaret Cho, David Koechner, and Lance Reddick.

As I spoke to earlier, there are those that are primed to view any form of critique as an outright attack. As early as in the production phase of FAITH BASED, far-leaning conservative pundits and outlets were quick to label the film as an effort in religious bashing. I will not entertain the notion for a moment longer than it takes to say that this is a, frankly, stupid take on what FAITH BASED is trying to do. 

Lance Reddick, Luke Barnett, and Tanner Thomason in FAITH BASED | Image courtesy of IMDB

To limit FAITH BASED to its critical discussion of the religious film industry, and the evangelical Christian faith that propels it, is an obtuse reading of a film that has so much more to say. I don’t think it’s a stretch to summarize FAITH BASED as an equal opportunity satire. The film does not fixate on the Christian element of the faith-based film industry. Quite the opposite. The film does not speak to Christianity, at all, other than to point out that people’s devotion to their faith has created an avenue for those seeking to profit from it.

FAITH BASED is a gentle critique of charismatic, but dishonest personalities. It chides those who would take advantage of others. The film acknowledges that there are institutions and individuals that prey upon the good intentions of others and that it is the burden of all decent people to rise above that temptation. Whether your cult of choice is blindly following the teachings of a false prophet or a cooperation, it is most important to not be taken in by the dishonest. FAITH BASED is able to level pointed criticism, without harmfully bashing, and does so with kindness and fun at the center.

More than anything else, this is a film about growing up and becoming your better self. Each character in the film, through honesty and decency, is given the opportunity to grow and to find what they are searching for. They only fail when they conceal who they really are and choose a path that seeks to take advantage. This is carried out in a light and funny, if not sometimes cheesy, execution with some solid and fun performances. 

As with any great parody, FAITH BASED pokes fun at the quirks of the faith-based genre by paying direct homage. The structure of the film rolls out in a familiar and fun way, without dwelling too much in the heavier points of FAITH BASED’s message. Really well done.

FAITH BASED is fair-minded and a lot of fun. It’s a sincere effort that is anything but mean-spirited. A digestible, smile-inducing watch. FAITH BASED is now available in limited theatres and On Demand.

Caitlin Kennedy
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