If you’re following me on Facebook or Twitter, you know that I’ve been hyping a movie called ‘What If…’ for a couple of weeks now. Last night, August 20th, it was released into theaters. In the Chicagoland area, there were only 4 theaters that you could see the movie in. I’m not exactly sure who gets to make the decision as to what movies are allowed to play where, but it seems inappropriate for such a family-friendly film to be released to a limited audience. At least in the Chicago area, I’ve seen the nightly news report on how violence seems to be increasing, especially in gangs…one has to wonder if Hollywood’s version of reality is the cause or effect of such violence. That’s a subject for another time though.
There are a bunch of reviews out there for this movie. You can check out my wife’s review, Christian Cinema’s review, or Movie Guide’s review. Though the rating of the film is ‘PG’ (which is, in my opinion, laughable…should be a ‘G’ rating), it is amusing to see the warnings on the Movie Guide review, specifically the ‘light violence’ part. For all those wondering, Mike (an angel), played wonderfully by John Ratzenberger, punches Ben (the main character), played by Kevin Sorbo, two times in the entire film. To my knowledge, that’s why the violence rating is the way it is.
Before I get into my likes/dislikes about this film, please take a look (if you haven’t already) at the trailer…
From the trailer you can see one of the two punches that I wrote about earlier. Not really that big of a deal, right? I guess if you brought your kids to see the film and you have a “no hitting allowed” rule in your family, you could technically say that angels are allowed to hit…not humans. 😉
The comparison of ‘What If…’ to ‘Family Man’ is obvious…they are alike in a LOT of ways. In fact, they both have the same premise: if you could do it all over again, would you make the same choices? Both movies follow a main character in his current life, transports him to a glimpse of what his life could’ve been if 1 decision was different and then brings him back to reality to see what the character would do now that he knows how his life could’ve been different. The biggest difference with ‘What If…’ is that that Kevin Sorbo’s character could’ve been a pastor (in ‘Family Man’, Nicolas Cage’s character was a tire salesman in his glimpse) of a small church in the town that he grew up in. So, if you liked ‘Family Man’, you’ll love ‘What If…’.
Critically speaking, there are a few things I would’ve done differently in this film…most of them are behind-the-scenes type things.
- As an audio producer, I felt like I was being tortured in the movie theater with the abundance of sibilance. This may have been due to use of a bad microphone, failure to de-ess the film or the theater’s speakers (I didn’t notice this error at the movie premiere in Elgin a week and a half earlier). It just felt like anytime a female was talking and they came to a word that had an ‘S’ in it, it made me jump out of my seat.
- The audio favored Kevin Sorbo’s character more than anyone else. It felt as though his character was the only one mic’d and everyone else’s audio was recorded off his mic. I’m not a rocket scientist, but this could’ve been fixed by turning the boom that’s holding the mic toward the person speaking…or positioning the boom in between the two people that are having a conversation.
- There was a lot of shaky camera shots, especially in the church scenes when Kevin Sorbo’s character is preaching for the 1st time.
It wasn’t as noticeable the 1st time I saw the film (but I was a couple hundred feet away from the screen then),
however when you’re forced to sit in the 2nd row of a movie theater due to a packed crowd, the camera movement becomes VERY noticeable.
- I didn’t understand some of the editing that took place. Early in the film, there’s a transition (we later find out that 15 and a half years had gone by). However, instead of putting up on the screen “15 years later” (a tactic that was used at the end of the film), 6 shots of a city are used. Why so many? I have no idea. It felt like it slowed the movie down. Same with another area of the film where Kevin Sorbo’s character is driving his speedy new car down a highway…why so many different shots? Why the zoomed out road and watching the car drive (seemingly slowly) from one end of the screen to the other? I know he was driving fast, but putting the shot that wide conveys that he’s driving slow.
- I didn’t understand why parts of the trailer differed from that of the film. Yes, the same lines were used, but different visual shots were used. Two instances come to mind: 1) When Megan says ‘”I knew I was adopted” and 2) when the two angels congrat each other with fist pounding. They’re seen one way in the trailer and another way in the film. I’ve seen this in other trailers/movies too and I just don’t understand why it’s done.
Why am I being so critical of this movie? Because I think that, as Dallas Jenkins (the director of ‘What If…’) pointed out at the movie premiere, the greatest medium in the world should convey the greatest message in the world. Why do faith-based movies have to be so poorly done? They shouldn’t!! After all, they are trying to get the message of the Creator of creativity out. However, ‘What If…’ makes a valiant effort towards excellence…the beginning of great things to come.
As far as acting goes, one can not help but fall in love with the youngest daughter, Megan (played by Taylor Groothuis). She was given a very minor role in this film, however had a very moving scene with Kevin Sorbo’s character. Anyone who is a father or desires to be one will have their hearts pulled on.
Ben, played by Kevin Sorbo, is a believable family man (especially for someone that was thrown into the role)…however I’m not as convinced with the role of investment banker or pastor. The bass of his voice helps with the pastor role, but hurts my perspective of an investment banker.
By far, the best acting was by John Ratzenberger (Mike, the angel). Yes, I love humor and John delivered it, seemingly effortlessly. He has a knack for making people laugh, whether it’s from the words he uses, the inflection & tone used in those words, or the facial expressions used while talking.
In summary, while there are some flaws to this film (and what film doesn’t have flaws?), it is one of the best Christian films to date. People who have a hard time inviting non-believers to church can use this film as an outreach ministry very easily. So, get out there and watch ‘What If…’!! If it’s not in your area, ask for it!! You won’t be disappointed.