For some reason this week, several people have asked me if I have seen the film “Facing the Giants”. This movie is over two years old, so I’m not sure what sparked this convergence of inquiries. I was implored by each of these people to show it to “the youth” because of the two main themes – football and faith. So, when only four kids showed up for Jr. High Night tonight, I opted to ditch the plans to pop in the movie. I asked the young people to watch it carefully and critically. They did…and they thought it was lame.
“Facing the Giants” is the story of a down-on-his-luck high school football coach who relies on his faith in God to see him through the challenges of his life. Once he hits rock bottom (his car dies, he’s not making enough money, he’s impotent, and people in town want him fired after his team starts the season 0-3) he turns to the Lord in prayer. Coach Taylor asks the team to “give their season to God” while “letting God be glorified in the way they play” and by “giving their best”. The team rallies around their coach’s sermon and (naturally) go on a huge winning streak. After a few improbable twists and turns, the team ends up winning the Georgia State Championship on a 51-yard field goal by the reformed soccer player / placekicker.
The film is nothing to write home about. The acting rivals that of an ABC After School Special from the mid-1980s. The dialogue is syrupy and predictable. The football scenes aren’t awful…in fact that’s probably the best aspect of the movie. All that said, they made the movie with a $100,000 budget and employed a cast of volunteers from local churches in most of the roles. Considering “Facing the Giants” was an amped-up church drama, they did a very nice job.
My main criticism of the film are the subtle theological implications that are made at various points in the movie. First, Coach Taylor only turns to God when he has no other choice. We know him early on to be a Christian, a family man, and a coach at a Christian school. Why did he only bring God into the picture when he had no other option? Second, and more nefarious, is how God is portrayed as a sort of “good luck charm”. Once the team starts “living and playing for God”, they are blessed by God with the ability to win football games. God also fixes the problems in Coach Taylor’s life because of the coach’s faithfulness.
Now, I firmly believe in the power of prayer. I believe that God listens to AND answers all prayers. But I have also come to believe, through my own life experiences and the stories of others, that the way God is portrayed in the film is not how God functions most of the time. My relationship with God has taught me that God rarely gives me what I pray for…but God always gives me what I need. This has caused me to stop praying for God to grant me specific outcomes. Instead, my prayer has simply become, “thy will be done”.
Does this mean that “Facing the Giants” is a harmful movie? Absolutely not. It’s a heartwarming story of how the faith of individuals – as well as the faith of a team – can be a powerful asset in the world. It gives hope to people who have known the pain of living in a sinful world. It overtly talks about the unique and unpredictable ways that God works in the lives of God’s people. It also, in my opinion, paints an inaccurate picture of how God responds to prayer…and could, potentially, establish unrealistic expectations for how directly God answers the prayers of the faithful.
Film Quality – 2 / 5
Theology / Message – 1.5 / 5
Family Watchability – 4 / 5
OVERALL RATING – 2.5 / 5