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Second Chance, The
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by William Goss

"Guess Who's Coming To Sermon?"
3 stars

Ethan Jenkins (Michael W. Smith) is a white pastor at massive mega-church The Rock, comfortably located in the suburbs of Nashville. After upsetting his superiors with his disregard to their policies, he is sent to Second Chance, the Rock’s sister church in the slums, and observes the tough-love tactics of their black pastor, Jake Sanders (Jeff Carr). Sanders has done hard time, whereas Jenkins has gone as far as court-ordered rehab. Though this may seem like the perfect PAX sitcom, the premise actually belongs to 'The Second Chance,' a relatively modest Jesus-fish-out-of-water story told with enough competent direction to help curb the majority of its melodramatic moments and preachy parts.

Watch cultures collide, as the white guy cowers in his khakis upon hearing gunfire, while the black guy confronts gang members who enlist ten-year-olds to traffic drugs! See the equally stubborn pastors delight in displaying their disdain for one another! Look at they learn from one another and become better Christians as a result! The plot of Chance isn’t much more than a string of episodes designed to evoke conflict between the pair and then unite them towards a common goal, and as simple and predictable as the narrative is, it suits the film’s scale just fine. Despite the slightly heavy-headed gang scenes and the slightly hectic musical sequences, director Steve Taylor, cooperating on the screenplay with writers Chip Arnold and Ben Pearson, manages to include an admirable amount of frank insight towards the increasingly commercial world of churchgoing, where more attention is devoted to attendance numbers and TV spots than faith or religious conviction.

Smith and Carr do an adequate job as the leads, though Smith, a Christian music superstar, has trouble conveying more than a few emotions when dialogue substitutes for lyrics. Carr strikes just the right tone of confidence, never too cocky for his good while maintaining a consistent sense of friction between the two. For example, take Jake’s introduction of Ethan to a local hairdresser:

“Ethan, this is Tamela. Tamela, this is a white man.”

In fact, the church’s only other Caucasian character is Sonny, the slow but well-meaning caretaker, who ends up having the single tackiest scene that marks the third act’s increasingly didactic intent. The overbearing score, which merely intruded before, dominates this message-driven portion, where inevitable bonding and illumination takes place, and everyone sits down for what they stand for (even though the filmmakers make their point, the actual ending turns out to be a rather abrupt one).

Even though this review is coming from an atheist, a well-made movie can still succeed regardless of beliefs, and despite being a movie by Christian filmmakers starring Christian actors as Christian characters advancing Christian ideals, this is still a remarkably functional film considering its religious motives. Many similar films are hindered by the devotion of those behind them, inevitably introducing an agenda of sorts, and for the most part, 'The Second Chance' avoids those pitfalls with a steady hand. Then again, perhaps the best religious film may have to be made by a filmmaker who doesn’t share those very same views. Lord knows what might come of that.

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originally posted: 02/22/06 18:19:08
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User Comments

1/12/09 Shaun Wallner Interesting Movie! 3 stars
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  17-Feb-2006 (PG-13)
  DVD: 18-Jul-2006



Directed by
  Steve Taylor

Written by
  Chip Arnold
  Ben Pearson
  Steve Taylor

  Michael W. Smith
  Jeff Carr
  Jonathan Thomas
  J. Don Ferguson

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