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‘What If…’ review

21 Aug

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.

DSCF1483

It wasn’t as noticeable the 1st time I saw the film (but I was a couple hundred feet away from the screen then),

What if...theater

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.

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7 Comments

Posted by on August 21, 2010 in Day-to-Day, My faith, wifester

 

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7 responses to “‘What If…’ review

  1. Rochelle

    August 21, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    Excellent review honey!!!

     
    • Tim

      August 23, 2010 at 9:16 am

      Thanks honey!

       
  2. Dallas Jenkins

    August 21, 2010 at 10:46 pm

    Thanks for the review, Tim…

    Which theater did you see the film in? I’d like the sound to be fixed. We got good sound recorded, so it shouldn’t be bad in a theater.

    The shaky camera shots were on purpose, by the way…as soon as Ben goes to the alternate reality, we used shaky shots for awhile to illustrate that he’s out of place and uncomfortable.

    Email me at dallas@jenkins-entertainment.com to let me know what theater you saw it in…

    Thanks,

    Dallas

     
    • Tim

      August 23, 2010 at 9:35 am

      Dallas,

      Thanks for stopping by! I hope the audio got fixed…we didn’t hear it as bad at the premiere.

      I figured the shaky camera movement was on purpose…I just didn’t know why exactly. As of late, I’ve only seen a shaky camera whenever there was a fight scene (for example, the Bourne movies). I’m guessing that if we were able to sit further back in the movie theater, it wouldn’t have felt so bad, but since we were in the 2nd row from the screen it felt strange.

      Thanks again for making this movie…there’s not many films that can change your life like this one can. I look forward to future films that you & Harvest will put together!!

       
  3. Christina T

    August 23, 2010 at 8:21 am

    Interesting review. I like how you included some of the technical information. I’ve read a few reviews of movies that mention sound quality and image quality and in cases where it can affect the viewer’s experience it is helpful to know (I can’t stand shaky cameras).

    I think the quality of Christian cinema is certainly improving even if it still has a long way to go. There are some nice faith based films produced by Hallmark that I thought were pretty good as far as acting and message. I don’t like watching films that feel like video sermons and for years that is what we got with Christian cinema. I am glad to see it is changing. I kind of liked The Ultimate Gift. It wasn’t perfect by any means but it was a pretty good movie. I loved Love Comes Softly (Hallmark). I think Rochelle enjoyed that one as well.

    I may watch this movie when it is released on DVD. I usually rely on Christianity Today if I want a Christian take on a movie I’m interested in but it is good to get multiple viewpoints. I hope you will review more films in the future. You seem to have a good instinct for it.

     
    • Tim

      August 23, 2010 at 10:16 am

      Christina,

      Thanks for reading the review! Just to let you know, the sibilance that we heard in the theater was, more than likely, a local issue, as we didn’t hear it at the movie’s premiere at our church a week earlier. So please don’t let that keep you from going.

      Yes, Rochelle enjoys the ‘Love Comes’ series. I find them lacking in entertainment value. Maybe I’m just not drawn to ‘Little House on the Prairie’ type films.

      As for Christianity Today’s review of this movie (found here: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/movies/reviews/2010/whatif.html), I would be careful to put all my trust in one source…as the reviewer is still (as am I) human and therefore imperfect. I just skimmed the review and must say that if you thought that I was hyper critical of the film, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Wow, this reviewer is nit-picking to the ‘n’th degree…but not on technical issues. The reviewer is attacking the storyline of the film and, I believe, missed some very obvious points. For example, the reviewer states:

      The big problem with this line of thinking is that it denies God true power over our lives. It makes “calling” a one-shot deal; you either heed it at that moment, or you miss the boat forever. Yet time and again in Scripture we see men and women say “no” to God’s call—and then we see God work his will in their lives and in the world anyway. Not only that, but the concept of redemption is utterly absent from What If …, which only offers a “do-over” that would erase those 15 years that Ben allowed the locusts to eat.

      Ummmm…he doesn’t ever go back in time to fix his “calling”. In fact, after he’s done with his glimpse, Ben picks up at the hospital (where he was transported due to his car ‘accident’ earlier in the film. So, he doesn’t miss the boat forever, as the reviewer says. Also, no redemption in the film? Ummm, what about Ben surrendering himself completely to God (both the current Ben and the Ben + 40 years dieing in the hospital bed)?

      So, I think Christianity Today missed the mark on this one. I think they had their blinders on and didn’t realize that this movie is in direct competition to the other filth that’s playing at the local cinema. After reading the review, wouldn’t one be swayed to turn towards the filth? Ug…

      Will I write more movie reviews? Possibly, but the theme of this blog is really what’s going on in my life…this movie was something that I support, so I felt like I had to write something about it. It was a tough thing to do because while I support this film, I didn’t want to force-feed “you got to see this film…you got to see this film” so much that it turned people off to seeing it. The balance was difficult. I am curious to see the box office results though…I hear those come out later today.

       

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