Three faith-based films — “I Can Only Imagine,” “Paul, Apostle of Christ,” and “God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness” — are in theaters during Easter week. Two of the films, “I Can Only Imagine” and “Paul, Apostle of Christ,” are in the top 10 at the weekend box office. “God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness” debuted at No. 12. Times film critic Justin Chang assesses the best and the worst of them. And from his perspective as a Christian moviegoer, he outlines his hope for a better ‘faith-based’ cinema.
AT ONE POINT in the hit musical biopic “I Can Only Imagine,” Bart Millard (J. Michael Finley), a Texan singer-songwriter touring with his up-and-coming Christian rock band MercyMe, receives a rude awakening from the industry he’s trying to woo. “You’re just not good enough,” says one record-label rep, inadvertently echoing the cruel words of Bart’s abusive father (Dennis Quaid) and triggering a wave of flashbacks to the boy’s traumatized upbringing.
Those flashbacks made me roll my eyes, but they also filled me with a strange sense of guilt. As someone who considers himself both a lover of cinema and a follower of Jesus Christ, I must confess that the words “You’re just not good enough” have generally summed up my own opinion of the many, many Christian-themed independent productions that have sprung up since the smash success of “The Passion of the Christ” 14 years ago.