Faith, Patriotism, and an Extra Side of Cheese

The "father" in Faith of our Fathers
“Faith, Patriotism, and an Extra Side of Cheese”
A Review of Faith of Our Fathers by Nick Olszyk

MPAA Rating, PG-13                       
USCCB Rating, NR
Reel Rating, Two Reels       

            It’s really a shame to make this comparison, but Faith of Our Fathers is similar to Inside Out in sharing two parallel stories that intertwine to inform a central theme. Here, the first story involves two war buddies in 1969 Vietnam and the second a road trip of discovery between their adult children. Unlike the incredible Inside Out, however, Faith suffers from innumerous problems, especially atrocious dialogue and mostly poor acting. There is something there but only the most committed Pure Flix fans will find much of value.
            John Paul (named for the Beatles, not the Pope) is an average evangelical Christian living a settled and predictable life in California. While rummaging through some old boxes, he comes across a letter from his father Steven to his previously unknown best friend Eddie. Steven died in Vietnam when John was only a baby so any information is vital, sending him on a cross country journey to find this elusive friend. Instead, he discovers Eddie’s son Wayne, a dirty, annoying unbeliever who possess several letters from Steven to John but makes him pay $500 a pop to read them, which is not only incredibly jerkish but probably illegal since they are addressed to John in the first place. Together, this odd couple drive to the Vietnam War Memorial in DC to learn more about their fathers, encountering bumps both physical and spiritual along the way.
The story of their fathers is told in flashbacks. They mirror their children in that Steven is a skittish rookie constantly flipping through his pocket Bible while Eddie is a hard and seasoned warrior who can’t be bothered with faith. However, they come to an understanding, especially through the shared experience of leaving new wives and young children to fight for Uncle Sam halfway across the world.
John and Wayne’s story is pretty dull except for brief flashes of humor that comes from their clash of personalities. Eventually, they meet an officer who knew both fathers and can shed some light. When the inevitable speech about faith comes, it is both preachy and boring, mostly due to its terrible delivery by Stephen Balwin, who never shows any inflection in emotion the whole film. Stephen and Eddie’s story is much better, developing the characters well and bringing their narratives to a devastating conclusion. Their final scene, which involves a memorable reference to the Good Thief, is the only moment that reaches the brilliance of the studio’s greatest triumph God’s Not Dead. While Balwin preaches in words, Stephen and Eddie demonstrate the gospel through action, and it is infinitely more compelling.
Faith of Our Fathers suffers from the ever present thorn in the side of independent Christian films: poor artistic quality, which is a nice way of saying…it’s pretty bad. The main culprit is the insufferable dialogue. A perfect example is Si Robertson’s cameo. Instead of letting Si do what Si does best, namely adlib to the camera, they force him to read a script of lines that mimic his style but are clearly constructed. Another frequent mistake is poor scenery. Protestant John prominently shows an Orthodox icon in his house. As the Vietnam soldiers march through the jungle, every scene looks oddly similar to the next and the fog is so thick it looks like an Ed Wood horror film rather than a South Asian swamp. Then there’s Stephen Baldwin, given top billing despite a supporting role, who stops the action short every time he’s on screen.

There’s a nice little story hidden deep within this mediocre movie but it’s covered with more cheese than those stuffed crust monstrosities from Pizza Hut. More than once, I wished I had a remote control so I could see a better film. It also contains a glimmer of traditional patriotism and respect for those who lost their lives for our freedoms, but it’s sidelined for the evangelical message. Faith of Our Fathers isn’t great, but since the 4th of July alternatives are Terminator 5, Magic Mike 2, or a documentary on Amy Winehouse you could do worse.

This article first appeared in Catholic World Report on July 3rd, 2015.