Faith Based

You may have already heard about Faith Based. The readers at Breitbart and Fox News certainly have; they reportedly left thousands of angry comments after stories about the film were published. Here's another case of people getting angry without knowing what they're talking about. Faith Based isn't nasty or blasphemous. Its jabs at Christian cinema are affectionate, and there's a core of sweetness in the story, which is more about friendship than anything. This is a smart, funny picture that celebrates the value of having faith in the people around you.

Luke Barnett (who wrote the screenplay) and Tanner Thomason play, appropriately, Luke and Tanner, two best friends who haven't fully embraced the idea of adulthood. The latter works as a bartender, the former as a pool cleaner who sells weight-loss teas on the side. Luke is obsessed with Nicky Steele (Jason Alexander), one of those “get rich quick” hucksters who runs what's essentially a pyramid scheme. He longs to come up with the million dollar idea that will secure his future.

And then he gets it. Luke proposes that he and Tanner make a faith-based movie. Pointing to the fact that they're often bankrolled by churches, made for a pittance, and wildly profitable, he argues that producing their own could be a ticket to riches. That neither of them knows the first thing about filmmaking doesn't matter. Luke gets his preacher father (Lance Reddick) to invest, and before long, they're rolling on a low-budget Christian-themed movie – set in outer space, no less.

Faith Based's jabs at the Christian cinema market are funny without ever condescending to the faithful. One of the most hilarious moments finds Luke and Tanner meeting with a Pure Flix-like company whose execs (Margaret Cho and Chris Marquette) outline the requirements any successful faith-based film needs to have. Their recommendations -- including to have an “A-, B-, or C-list celebrity who's a Christian, or at least a Republican” -- will be humorously familiar to anyone who has ever seen a few religious pictures. That's how spot-on they are.

Additional comedy comes from the way the guys follow those mandates. The film they make, A Prayer in Space, tells the tale of an astronaut who has a religious conversion in outer space. As for the requisite faded star, they approach Butch Savage (David Koechner), a washed-up Stallone-like action hero Luke and Tanner grew up idolizing. The more faith-based films you've seen, the more tropes you'll recognize. Barnett and director Vincent Masciale have clearly done their homework in studying how these pictures look and feel.

Even though it has some fun busting on the genre, Faith Based is also a knowing exploration of the struggles that go into making an independent film, from casting decisions, to financing issues, to securing a distribution deal. Through it all, the friendship between Luke and Tanner is put to the test, as is their – you guessed it – faith that they can actually complete the picture. Perhaps the most sly joke of the movie is that it morphs into another kind of faith-based film. The guys need a miracle to complete their project, and they just might get one.

Barnett and Thomason have a nice, easy chemistry together. Their interactions generate a lot of laughs, yet the actors also make you feel the bond between their characters. The heart of Faith Based is what Luke and Tanner learn about themselves and each other during the process of making a Christian movie. Simply mocking stuff like God's Not Dead would be shooting fish in a barrel. Instead, the film goes for something deeper and more poignant. Yes, it will make you giggle with its satire, but you just might find it touching, as well.

Faith Based is unrated, but contains adult language. The running time is 1 hour and 30 minutes.