J. & C.'s Movie Reviews

Our Notes on Movies Made Public

Facing the Giants

Posted by J on July 21, 2007

Facing the Giants is a million-dollar skit. It uses the kind of dialogue and plot elements found in Sunday sketches in evangelical churches, usually acted out some time during the worship service, just prior to the sermon. In fact, Facing the Giants often feels like that skit and sermon rolled into one. Not surprisingly, it was funded by a baptist megachurch in Georgia, which also contributed–so the credits tell us–catering, settings, and volunteer actors. Given the amateur involvement, the construction of the movie isn’t as bad as you’d think. It has some nice individual moments where personal and corporate piety is acted out in a not-terribly hoaky way. You might be inspired for a minutes. But the sum of those moments rests on overly pietistic notions: that God is a quasi-genie and that our lives of faith are emotional rollercoasters. This is the Second Great Awakening packaged in a twenty-first century sports movie.

The plot borrows from the Eternal Sports Story: underdogs overcome long odds to win the Big Game. When a character named David enters the movie, struggling to kick footballs and to believe in himself, we sort of know where this is going. When we discover that the best team in the state is nicknamed the Giants, we have a good guess ten minutes into the movie that, yes, David will kick the winning field goal to defeat the Giants. But this isn’t all. Our main character, the football coach of Shiloh Christian Academy (SCA), undergoes severe hardship. He hasn’t won in six years, has his job threatened by vicious parents, has his assistant coach turn on him, struggles to pay the bills, and learns that he can’t conceive children with his wife. But once Coach repents and dedicates his life to Christ, all of his problems are solved. His team starts winning, his assistant coach apologizes, someone gives him a new truck, he gets a $6000 raise, his team overcomes long odds and defeats the Giants for the state championship, and his wife gets pregnant. The final scene shows that Coach Faith wins back-to-back titles and has baby #2 on the way. By our count God performed six miracles in the movie after the school’s revival, including turning a dumb football jock into a math genius and changing the direction of the wind at the perfect moment. All that, with only one very brief disappointment (a loss turned into a win).

Facing the Giants tells us not to care about winning football games, until its final moments, when it focuses on winning football games. Along the way, Coach Faith weeps a lot and yells a lot, in an attempt to inspire his players to glorify God. Testosterone-laced scenes drag on for minutes, as Coach Faith screams at his players to give everything they’ve got. Almost every scene inspires a different kind of emotional high, with the aid of contemporary Christian music. Meanwhile, we yearned for a quiet break, wondering when SCA’s revival would inspire someone to go sit at a pond and fish for a few hours. Perhaps, while at that pond, Coach could ponder what happens when all his problems aren’t solved instantly via miracles. Perhaps, while pondering, he could think about the difference between caricatures and characters. And maybe he could turn a skit into a script. Chariots of Fire and Tender Mercies would be places to figure out how to do that.

Entertainment: 3
Intelligence: 1
Morality: 10

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2 Responses to “Facing the Giants”

  1. […] surprise in this movie is that certain problems and moments are genuine.  Unlike its sister movie, Facing the Giants, Fireproof does not allow its main character to win life’s lottery immediately after […]

  2. […] G-rated, but not saccharine — don’t exist. The Straight Story is the opposite of Facing the Giants and makes the hyper-emotional nonsense of such Christian fare look foolish. We should not forget […]

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