||Samuel Johnson once compared a woman’s preaching to a dog walking on its hind legs, saying it might not be done well, but you’re surprised to see it done at all. That idea is applicable to “Fighting the Giants,” a high school football movie made by the members of a church in Albany, Georgia. It’s hardly a good picture--you might snicker when the lead character asks, at one point, “Why does this house have to stink so bad?” and you think how the line applies to the movie’s effect on the auditorium you’re in--but you have to be amazed that something with this pedigree (the cast is “all volunteer”) was actually completed and that a movie of this quality has found national distribution. God does indeed, as the script is fond of telling us, move in mysterious ways.
Alex Kendrick (who also co-wrote the script with his brother Stephen, as well as directing), the Associate Pastor of Media for that Albany church (Sherwood Baptist), plays Grant Taylor, the put-upon football coach of the Shiloh Christian Academy. He’s just had another losing season, and may be fired. He’s poor, with a car that frequently conks out on him. And he’s just been diagnosed, after he and his wife (Brooke Taylor) have tried and failed to have a baby, as unable to sire a child. In the depths of depression he finds solace in the Bible, and begins preaching it to his team, too, as the new season starts. Suddenly they begin winning, and over the predictable hurdles they make it to the state championship.
Along for the ride is a new player, David Childers (Bailey Cave), who’s only played soccer till now, thinking himself too small for football, but whose wheelchair-bound dad (Steve Williams), who’s fond of spouting bromides of the most obvious sort, persuades him not to be afraid and try out as a kicker. Wouldn’t you know it, this little fellow with the appropriate name will become the instrument through which all those opposing Goliaths will be brought low (even if no slingshot is involved)?
“Facing the Giants” would seem sincere enough, but it’s just a chain of ludicrous cliches of both the sports and religious variety. The plot turns are risible (after being defeated in the playoffs, the team is reinstated in the championship series after it’s revealed the winners had cheated, and even the can’t-have-a-child subplot is dispensed with offhandedly), and the dialogue goes way beyond the obvious. But while the acting is terrible across the board, with Kendrick often seeming more painfully constipated than emotionally overwrought, the picture is actually pretty professional from a purely technical point of view. Unfortunately, rubbish in a pretty package is still rubbish.
There’s an audience out there looking for high-minded movies with a Christian message, and this picture may resonate with them. But by any objective standard it’s the sort of thing that should really have been relegated to DVDs that could have been sold in church vestibules or to religious broadcasting outfits. As for Mr. Kendrick, he shouldn’t feel too bad. As David’s daddy sagely informs him during one of their heart-to-hearts, “Everyone fails at some point.” Maybe Kendrick is good at sermonizing, because he’s sure a flop as writer, director and actor.