Plot: Grace (Melissa Joan Hart) is a high school teacher with a sterling reputation, to the point that she is the current Teacher of the Year at the school. As she discusses various philosophical views of historical figures, one of her students asks about Jesus Christ and Grace responds. While she expresses no personal beliefs in her answer, the fact that she would discuss Jesus or mention scripture in class has caused a firestorm of reactions and now, she finds herself suspended. Soon lawyers become involved and a trial looms, one which could cost Grace her lifelong career as an educator. Meanwhile, several others deal with their own faith based concerns, including the young woman who asked Grace the question in the first place. Will the court decide that Grace’s mention of God result in losing her career and possibly even more?
Entertainment Value: The original God’s Not Dead was a fun watch, thanks to over the top, heavy handed moralizing and unintentional humor, so it is no surprise that trend continues with this sequel. The cast has been given an upgrade, with some bigger names and more skilled thespians on deck, but the movie hammers in the message harder than ever, so the camp value is still high. Once again, we have a situation where all of those who have faith are shown as wonderful, but oppressed people, while anyone on the other side is a monster. This approach is an odd choice, as it is closed minded and will do little to entice non-believers into the fold. The evil world against the poor Christians is so ham handed too, where the film could have shown the warmth and acceptance of religion, instead it focuses on combative elements. I think a better approach would be to embrace the positive aspects of faith and how good people can make a difference, instead of this fetishistic persecution tactic. I’m sure some will love to see those who disagree with them painted in a bad light, but more likely than not, God’s Not Dead 2 will be seen as heavy handed propaganda. Which I don’t mind, as it does lead to some outlandish moments and a good amount of unintentional humor.
As much as I loved Kevin Sorbo in God’s Not Dead, even he seemed to have trouble keeping a straight face. In this sequel, some of the smaller roles return, such as David A.R. White as the hapless pastor and of course, Trisha LaFache as everyone’s bitch with magic cancer, Amy Ryan. LaFache is toned down in this installment, as she has found faith, but she is still fun to watch. White is honestly one of the movie’s bright spots, as he seems to have a genuine presence, unlike the name actors brought in, who just chew scenes. Ray Wise is the biggest ham this time around, giving us an outrageous effort in which he shouts every line and comes across like a super villain, as opposed to a trial lawyer. Melissa Joan Hart is fine, if not all that memorable, while Hayley Orrantia has solid presence and while doe-eyed, has some fire when she needs it. Robin Givens dials up the melodrama, while Pat Boone is hilarious in an unexpected, but quite fun smaller role. While most will either embrace this for the faith elements or dismiss it as religious propaganda, I think God’s Not Dead 2 has some solid b movie appeal, so if you like over the top drama, give it a look.