Plot: Elizabeth (Priscilla Shirer) is a wife, mother, and woman of pungent odors, but her seemingly idyllic life is just an illusion. Her husband Tony (T.C. Stallings) is a successful pharmaceutical rep, but he is on the road a lot and when he is home, he isn’t the kind of man Elizabeth longs to be with. He is short tempered and so cold to his family that the couple’s daughter doubts if she is even loved, as Tony shows little affection or care toward his wife and child. As he pursues an extramarital affair and some shady deals with his sample drugs, Tony is unaware that his wife has met a cartoon character named Clara (Karen Abercrombie). Clara is an ancient sage who encourages Elizabeth to put up with Tony’s awful antics, as Satan is the real problem and only by isolating herself in a closet can she defeat the dark lord. Can Elizabeth somehow pray for her husband to get food poisoning, survive an attack from an ice cream thief, and tolerate Clara’s shrill banter, or is her miserable marriage doomed?
Entertainment Value: Are you a horrible person? If so, you can rest easy, as War Room tells us that you are not the problem, but Satan is. This ridiculous blend of emotional abuse, religious propaganda, and double dutch makes no bones about its purpose, to validate unhealthy relationships and encourage women to remain with abusive partners, as that is God’s will. At best, War Room endorses emotional abuse and at worst, it feels like a movie made by an abusive husband to condition women of faith, poor messages even by Alex Kendrick’s standards. War Room’s value is in how over the top and heavy handed the experience is, as unintentional humor abounds and the movie believes it is doing holy work. If the movie wasn’t so sincere, it would lose some of that ludicrous charm, but Kendrick is steadfast and presents his values in serious fashion, which leads to hilarious results. The intentional attempts at humor fall flat, but when Elizabeth runs around her house shouting at Satan or Clara disarms an ice cream thief with the power of Jesus, the movie almost feels like a parody of Christian cinema. The unintentional humor is consistent, but War Room overstays its welcome and feels like it should end at a handful of instances. This narrative can’t support two hours and so the pace drags often, especially in the final act. I can’t give this a solid recommendation, but those who appreciate over the top Christian cinema or unintentional comedies can likely find some entertainment here.
The performances are sincere, but outlandish and over the top, again adding to the unintentional humor of the material. The most ridiculous of the lot is Karen Abercrombie, who plays the old lady Clara, in an effort that makes Tyler Perry’s Madea seem downright grounded. This is stereotype on top of stereotype, as she calls on every old gospel woman cliche under the sun, then tries to imbue her performance with a shaking in the aisles kind of passion for the lord. She is supposed to be a kind old lady, but she gives horrible advice and tells Elizabeth to put up with Tony’s abuse, isolate herself, and even blame herself for not loving her husband enough. Clara is still hilarious for all the wrong reasons, but I dislike the dangerous messages she carries, which can’t be hidden by her awful wig. Priscilla Shirer brings her Stockholm Syndrome wife to life in stilted, erratic fashion and her scenes of yelling at the devil are some of the funniest moments in the movie. The tonal shifts between slapstick humor and her character’s emotional turmoil are odd, but again kick up the unintentional laughs. The cast also includes Alex Kendrick, T.C. Stallings, and Michael Jr.