Starring: Ja Rule, Adrienne Bailon, Stephen Baldwin
Director: Steve Race
Running Time: 118 mins
I’m In Love With A Church Girl is an American film about a man who falls in love with an honest Christian woman, but as his relationship with her grows stronger, he struggles to repent on his dark past and accept his religious salvation.
So-called ‘Christian movies’ often get a bad rap for their heavy-handed religious storytelling and often awkward style of filmmaking, and with films like I’m In Love With A Church Girl, it’s easy to see why. Despite telling a story that, at its core, is filled with generally good, kind-hearted values, this is a painfully dull watch, often made all the worse by laughably poor acting and dialogue that makes it really difficult to take anything about this film entirely seriously.
Of course, as a religious movie, it would be pretty unfair to criticise this for how much it focuses on religion and the teachings of Christianity, but it’s the manner in which it handles those topics that makes the film such a difficult and often just bad watch at times.
Heavy-handed as a comatose gorilla, the film delivers its core Christian values in an often infuriatingly blatant and didactic manner throughout, constantly breaking up scenes and story arcs that are perfectly effective on their own, and would have easily had a lot more meaning if the religious connotations and depth were more implied, rather than preached directly at you whenever the opportunity arises.
It’s a trope that’s unfortunately common of the Christian genre, and equally fulfils some rather unfair stereotypes about Christianity, but when in-your-face, often patronising preaching is prioritised over genuine story development and good filmmaking, it’s difficult to really find a bright side. (To the extent that God himself is listed as an executive producer).
Again, that’s not to say that what the film is trying to teach is without value. For some, this may be a very meaningful film, and it does a good job at showing its most kind-hearted side throughout with a story that, as fastidious and dull as it often may be, did at least spark a smile from me on a couple of occasions.
The next problem, however, is that the story itself is far from engaging. On top of the heavy-handed Christian morality, I’m In Love With A Church Girl plays out like any other subpar romantic drama, taking the easy route through what could have been a genuinely interesting and even emotional story.
It’s the wasted potential that’s most disappointing, then, as we follow a man trying to repent on his past misdeeds as he enters into a passionate relationship with a woman, something that could have set up for fascinating emotional introspection around our main character as somewhat of an anti-hero throughout. Unfortunately, however, the screenplay quickly does away with that emotional conflict and leaves the remaining hour and a half to play out like your typical Hallmark movie: dull, predictable, vapid and often painfully, painfully cheesy.
And finally, you’ve got a cast that, despite featuring some really big names (Stephen Baldwin and Michael Madsen!), really doesn’t have the talent to make up for what is already a very weak film. Ja Rule is a less than charismatic lead, and although Adrienne Bailon is likable as the love interest, she doesn’t have much to do.
But then you’ve got a slew of secondary actors and extras who are laughably poor, and with each of their appearances they do down the film’s credibility to no end, made all the worse by reciting forced, unnatural and again heavy-handed Christian dialogue.
Overall, there really isn’t much to write home about with this film. On the bright side, it is kind and good-natured at heart, but looking everywhere else, it’s a really poor show. With a dull story, poor performances, bad dialogue, predictable and basic emotional drama and most frustratingly of all very heavy-handed religious morality, it’s not a film that’s ever particularly enjoyable to watch, and one that’s even harded to take in the slightest bit seriously, so that’s why I’m giving I’m In Love With A Church Girl a 4.9.