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I STILL BELIEVE

★★

FAITH ROMANTIC DRAMA MISSES EVERY DEMOGRAPHIC

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By Chris dos Santos
1st June 2020

While its effect on the Australian box office hasn't been as impactful as the American, over the past six years the success that Christian films have been having is unheard of. When Purefilx released 'God's Not Dead' in 2014 and it ended up grossing $64 million on a budget of $2 million, the pearly gates where opened and every studio jumped on the religious bandwagon. The following year 'War Room' did something unheard of and topped the U.S. box office, 'God's Not Dead' received two sequels, and countless others defied box office expectations including movies like 'Do You Believe?', 'The Case for Christ', 'Miracles from Heaven', 'Breakthrough' and the overly star-studded 'The Shack', which roped both Sam Worthington and Octavia Spencer into the genre. For the most part, these films where bad - if you where someone of faith, they were a fine confirmation, but for everyone else they were propaganda. That was, until 2016 with 'I'm Not Ashamed', which focused on the first victim of the Columbine High School massacre. The film didn't handle any aspects of the massacre tastefully, and was criticised for using tragedy to push a religious agenda. Along with the 2015 film 'Voiceless' in which a man, to quote the official synopsis, "risks his marriage and new ministry job by opposing an abortion clinic"... I don't think I need to say anything more about this one, but the box office gold of the Christian genre was starting to unravel, quickly.

'I STILL BELIEVE' TRAILER

But of course, the genre stayed afloat, and 2018's 'I Can Only Imagine', based on the "hit" song, grossed $86 million (which sadly is more than 'Love, Simon' took in, which opened alongside it), proving the genre still had legs. A spiritual sequel was quickly greenlit, this time focusing on the writer of the song 'I Still Believe'. This time, box office gold was in sight - hiring teen heartthrob KJ Apa in his first theatrical leading role would make for an instant hit, right? Coronavirus said no.

Jeremy Camp (KJ Apa, TV's 'Riverdale', 'A Dog's Purpose', 'The Hate U Give') leaves his Indiana home for college in California. On his first night there, he meets a member of Canadian Christian band The Kry and they become friends, as well as pushing Camp into a singing career. That same night, they go to a beach party where he first sees Melissa (Britt Robertson, 'The Longest Ride', 'Tomorrowland'), and the two start a relationship. When she is then diagnosed with Stage 3C cancer in her liver the two become closer, and through the "power of prayer" she is healed - but the cancer comes back and gets worse, leading Camp to question his religion and write his first "hit" single 'I Still Believe'.

'I Still Believe' is the crème de la crème of both generic religious and romantic films. Its biggest failure is trying to be both, but it appeals to neither. If you're a teenage girl who wants see KJ Apa they don't want to be preached at; they get enough of that at school (plus 'Riverdale' has more shirtless shots).

'I Still Believe' is the crème de la crème of both generic religious and romantic films. Its biggest failure is trying to be both, but it appeals to neither. If you're a teenage girl who wants see KJ Apa they don't want to be preached at; they get enough of that at school (plus 'Riverdale' has more shirtless shots). If you're spiritual, the film won't reaffirm anything, as it's missing those stereotypical faith scenes. The film is pulling more from 'The Fault in Our Stars' than anything else, and what's left is just a bland shell. Sure, if you're an easy crier and you're looking for something simple, 'I Still Believe' is a quick fit, but if you're looking for something more substantial it's best to go elsewhere.

For the fourth time, poor 30-year-old Britt Robinson is miscast as a freshman college student. It was uncomfortable in 2015 with 'Tomorrowland', and it still doesn't work in 2020. She is a very talented actress; I just wish she was handed better roles. Fun fact: this is her second time working with Apa, who was also her love interest in 'A Dog's Journey'.

'I Still Believe' is just another forgettable romantic film, and thankfully it's also forgettable in the religious film genre. It has a tonne of issues from pacing to story, but it's just a boring film that is unappealing to all the demographics it tries to hit. It's so forgettable that I just remembered Shania Twain plays KJ Apa's Mum. 2020 truly has been a ride.

FAST FACTS
RELEASE DATE: TBA
RUN TIME: 1h 57m
CAST: K.j. Apa
Britt Robertson
Melissa Roxburgh
Gary Sinise
Nathan Parsons
Abigail Cowen
Shania Twain
Tanya Christiansen
Cameron Arnett
Reuben Dodd
DIRECTORS: Andrew Erwin
Jon Erwin
WRITERS: Jon Gunn
Jon Erwin
PRODUCER: Kevin Downes
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