Yeah, yeah, late to the party again, Steve. Well truthfully guys, I had no intention of watching this movie. I take no pleasure in going to a Christian movie that I will likely dislike and give a bad review to. The only times I do go see a Christian movie is if it’s gotten a lot of notoriety, or it personally interests me. This one fit into neither category.
However, many good reviews started pouring in, and it looked like this might possibly be a decent, maybe even great, Christian movie. So what the heck? Off I went to see “I Can Only Imagine”.
The good news is that it wasn’t nearly as bad as I feared it would be.
The bad news is that it’s not as good as many people are saying it is.
SITWOL: You know that really popular Christian song “I Can Only Imagine”? It’s about the guy who wrote it.
I Can Only Imagine primarily suffers from a script and direction that seems hellbent on holding the entire product back. The majority of the movie, and especially the beginning, is filled with extremely held back performances.
Now part of that is because many of the beginning performances are given to children. The child performances don’t ruin the beginning, because it seemed like the director at first had a good idea of the kids’s acting limitations, but of course, they eventually demand an emotionally compelling performance from one or two of the kids, and none of it was convincing.
However, the held-back performances don’t stop at the child actors. The main actor was rarely ever convincing of any emotion past apathy or mild irritation.
Dennis Quaid, bless him, seems like he’s trying his best with what he was given, but what he was given wasn’t much. Quaid is supposed to be an abusive father in this movie, and the entire part where Quaid is supposed to show his abuse, it’s like the movie had training wheels on.
On top of that, the lead actor never seemed to have a grasp on what kind of emotional trauma this abuse would cause in every day life. There was no subtlety or interesting dynamics in his performance to latch onto. The movie apparently decided to exposit his trauma through dialogue instead of through performance and action. Obviously, this is because it’s a Christian movie that doesn’t want to scare its audience… but it’s still a shame, because compelling stories are realistic stories. And even though this movie is based on a true story, the script, performances, and production quality made everything feel so artificial.
The rest of the performances were unspecial at best, and unconvincing at worst.
However, and I guess this paragraph is SORT OF a spoiler but not really, the third act really attempts to make up for its weak first and second act. When Dennis Quaid’s character finds redemption, his performance was something to behold. The internalized anger and guilt he had while trying to reach out to his son, as well as try to understand a God he can’t even fathom, was nearly awe-inspiring. The subtleties in his performance were all there, and it was something I rarely ever see in Christian movies.
It was the best performance from Dennis Quaid that I’ve seen in quite a long time. The main actor seemed to play off of that really well, but the script and direction still really don’t do him any favors.
And it really bummed me out. As I saw Dennis Quaid’s broken character, all I thought was “Why couldn’t the movie feel this authentic the entire time?”
The soundtrack for this movie is about what you’d expect the soundtrack to be.
This movie also isn’t very good with showing passage-of-time, and I often got confused.
The ending, while kind of cheesy, was satisfying.
“I Can Only Imagine” gets its ending redemption right, but not the journey towards that redemption. The rest of the film feels stilted, held back, and poorly performed. However, it’s not so much as to make it unbearable.
What the film needed was a better script and better direction.
Honestly, all of the movies problems are not gonna stop the mainstream Christian audience from enjoying this movie. On the flip-side, all of the movie’s strengths aren’t going to convince the mainstream secular audience to see it. If this film interests you, then see it. If it doesn’t, then don’t. It’s as simple as that.