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Precisely half the audience at the opening night showing of God Bless the Broken Road that I attended seemed to enjoy the new faith film. The other patron laughed and gasped throughout, while I groaned in silence.
Sure, melodramatic plot devices are a matter of taste. Here’s one of many; gauge it for yourself: Late in the film, Amber (Lindsay Pulsipher), whose husband died in Afghanistan, is feeling hopeless and angry with God. The bank has issued its final foreclosure warning, and her fourth-grade daughter has run away. That’s when a wheelchair-bound veteran approaches her. He strains to push himself out of his seat, stands (inexplicably), salutes her, and explains the necklace he’s wearing. Her husband, who had saved his life, in his dying moments gave him the small crucifix that he had “made from the shrapnel of our first firefight.” (The PG film has some brief, bloodless combat action.)
Secular critics are saying, “Too much message.” The real issue, though, is the film’s mixed message. From its opening minutes, the film fixates on Amber’s potential love interest, hunky but struggling NASCAR driver Cody Jackson (Andrew Walker). A second chance at romance and the redemption of an abandoned faith lie at the end of the road Amber travels. The film prizes both destinations equally, trivializing the gospel.
Viewers might perceive twists on well-known stories. Ruth: Amber must cope with her interfering single mother-in-law. Job: Amber’s bubbly girlfriends give only rosy feedback no matter how bad things get. And Cars: Cody has been sent to the “minor leagues” in Amber’s hometown to work with racing “guru” Joe (Gary Grubbs) because he has been taking racetrack turns too fast—Lightning McQueen’s failing.
Joe shares some words of wisdom with Cody: “What you need to learn is when to go fast and when to go slow.” And Amber walks in.