God's Not Dead 2
|God's Not Dead 2|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Harold Cronk|
|Music by||Will Musser|
|Edited by||Vance Null|
|Distributed by||Pure Flix Entertainment|
|Box office||$24.5 million|
God's Not Dead 2 is a 2016 American Christian drama film, directed by Harold Cronk, and starring Melissa Joan Hart, Jesse Metcalfe, David A. R. White, Hayley Orrantia and Sadie Robertson. It is a sequel to the 2014 film God's Not Dead, and focuses on a high school teacher facing a court case that could end her career, after having answered a student's question about Jesus.
God's Not Dead 2 was released on April 1, 2016. It was the final film role for Fred Dalton Thompson, who died in November 2015. The film was moderately successful at the box office, earning $24 million on a $5 million budget, though making for a total gross of almost a third of its predecessor. A sequel, entitled A Light in Darkness, was released in March 2018.
AP History teacher Grace Wesley (Melissa Joan Hart), a devout evangelical Christian, notices that one of her students, Brooke Thawley (Hayley Orrantia), is withdrawn following the recent accidental death of her brother. Involved in little more than her studies, Brooke notices Grace's hope-filled attitude, and asks where Grace finds her optimism. Grace replies "Jesus", and Brooke begins to read the Bible for herself. As Grace lectures on Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., Brooke asks whether their peaceful teachings relate to the biblical account of the Sermon on the Mount. Grace responds in the affirmative, and relates parts of scripture to his teachings. One student immediately texts his parents about the class, and the ensuing backlash draws the ire of Principal Kinney (Robin Givens). She reprimands Grace, saying that the teacher's faith clouded her judgment. Grace is subsequently brought before the School Board, who inform her that legal action will be taken against her as she has violated the separation of church and state. Grace's case draws the attention of Tom Endler (Jesse Metcalfe), a young defense attorney who is willing to aid her despite being an unbeliever himself.
After speaking to his friend Josh, Martin Yip, a college student, visits Pastor David Hill (David A. R. White) to ask him several questions about God. Former left-wing blogger Amy Ryan goes to the hospital to check in on her cancer, only to find that it has miraculously vanished. She talks to Michael Tait of the Newsboys, who encourages her, stating that with faith, prayers can be answered. Amy ponders this, and later makes her blog a diary about her adventures with God.
The School Board brings Grace's case before a judge in Little Rock, Arkansas, hoping to secure her termination and strip her of her teaching license unless she issues an apology, which Grace refuses to do. To Brooke's horror, prosecutor Pete Kane (Ray Wise) declares that the lawsuit will "prove once and for all that God is dead". His opening argument suggests that the society of the United States will crumble should Grace fail to be found guilty. Endler responds by stating that Grace was simply doing her job, and that the law separating church and state was written by Thomas Jefferson in an effort to protect the church, not persecute it. Kane builds a strong case against Grace by bringing forward witnesses such as Kinney and Brooke's parents, prompting Endler to rethink their defense. Meanwhile Brooke stands in solidarity with her friends against Kinney. The defense is dealt another blow when their key juror, David, becomes ill. Christian apologist J. Warner Wallace is called as an expert witness, arguing that it is illogical to think that the gospel was a conspiracy because despite facing persecution and death, none of the Apostles ever retracted the accounts of seeing the risen Jesus. Kane is floored to learn that Wallace was formerly an atheist who was converted to Christianity.
Amy encourages Brooke to follow her heart, despite what others are making her do. Martin is surprised to find his father in his college dorm. Mr. Yip angrily rebukes Martin for following God despite the family's sacrifices. Martin refuses to deny God, and Mr. Yip disowns him, then leaves. A heartbroken Martin goes to the church, where he finds Brooke. They talk about God, and Martin eventually brings Brooke to God. Later, Brooke sets up a protest to support Grace.
Brooke is allowed as a witness. Kane is able to trick her into admitting that it was Grace and not Brooke who initiated their first conversation about Jesus. As Grace becomes more and more discouraged, Brooke and her friends sing her a song in an attempt to build up her spirits. Martin visits David in the hospital with his friend Paul, and announces that he feels his call is as a pastor in China. Using a tactic to position Grace as a hostile witness, Endler gets the judge to inform the jury not to let their bias or prejudices interfere with their verdict. The jury ultimately finds in favor of Grace, who rejoices along with Brooke and Endler as Kane stands humiliated.
In a post-credits scene, a fully recovered David, hungry after having ice chips for 2 days, returns to church with Paul who offers, "I'm hungry as well, David. How 'bout I take you for a nice, tuna melt?" Suddenly, David is then arrested for refusing to turn in his sermons to the government, (shown earlier in the film). Paul and Martin watch as David is taken away. Then, Martin wonders what to do next, and Paul replies "Same as always, Martin. We pray in faith." as David is driven off to jail, setting up the events for the sequel: God's Not Dead: A Light in Darkness.
- Melissa Joan Hart as Grace Wesley
- Jesse Metcalfe as Tom Endler
- David A. R. White as Reverend Dave
- Hayley Orrantia as Brooke Thawley
- Sadie Robertson as Marlene
- Ernie Hudson as Judge Robert Stennis
- Pat Boone as Walter Wesley
- Fred Dalton Thompson as Senior Pastor
- Robin Givens as Miss Kinney
- Carey Scott as Richard Thawley
- Maria Canals-Barrera as Catherine Thawley
- Benjamin Onyango as Reverend Jude
- Ray Wise as Pete Kane
- Paul Kwo as Martin Yip
- Jon Lindstrom as Superintendent Jim Powell
- Eamonn McCrystal as Simon Boyle
- Abigail Duhon as Jessica
- Trisha LaFache as Amy Ryan
Both the Christian rock band The Newsboys and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee have cameos. Christian apologists and authors Lee Strobel and J. Warner Wallace appear as trial witnesses. Local NBC affiliate KARK-TV personalities Mallory Brooks and Victoria Price both appear as reporters.
The day before the Iowa caucuses, presidential candidate Mike Huckabee (who appears in one scene) offered a free screening of the film. A billboard for the film was prevented from being displayed at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
In its opening weekend, the film grossed $7.6 million (less than the original's opening of $8.6 million), finishing fourth at the box office, behind Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice ($51.3 million), Zootopia ($19.3 million) and My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 ($11.2 million). As of December 2017, the film has grossed over $20.8 million domestically and over $1.4 million in Brazil.
Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a rating of 8%, based on 36 reviews, with an average rating of 3.4/10. The site's consensus states: "Every bit the proselytizing lecture promised by its title, God's Not Dead 2 preaches ham-fistedly to its paranoid conservative choir." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 22 out of 100, based on 8 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews." Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale. Deadline noted that "faith-based films have an easy time gaining an A on CinemaScore."
Bill Zwecker of the Chicago Sun-Times felt that the underlying issues presented in the film are relevant in today's world, but criticized the lack of subtlety, saying, "the entire film simply comes off as a two-hour, jazzed-up movie version of a sermon." Frank Scheck of The Hollywood Reporter criticized the film's "straw man" argument and its perceived victimizing of Christians, writing, "Pounding its agenda with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer, God's Not Dead 2 will no doubt please its target audience. Everyone else will be left wondering why its fans seem to be suffering from such a persecution complex." Jordan Hoffman at The Guardian deemed it "a much better movie than God's Not Dead, but that's a bit like saying a glass of milk left on the table hasn't curdled and is merely sour," and stated that "it is unfortunately just professional enough that there are only brief instances of transcendent badness, rather than drawn-out sequences." Nick Olszyk of Catholic World Report said that the film "doesn't have the knockout punch of its predecessor but still a decent left hook." Shelia O'Malley of rogerebert.com gave the film 1 1/2 out of 4 stars, and acknowledged that "there are serious movies about the Christian faith, about the persecution of the faithful, and about the intolerance that goes both ways," but that "God's Not Dead 2 is not one of them."
In reviewing the film, Roger Patterson of the Christian apologetics organization Answers in Genesis stated that it was "much better than the first," due to the absence of the evolutionary ideas in the first film, as well as other aspects. He also criticized the film for presenting an "empirical, evidentialist apologetic that pointed to Jesus as a simple historical figure," as well as for having many Christian clichés.
On October 27, 2016, a third God's Not Dead film, God's Not Dead: A Light in Darkness, was announced by producer and actor David A. R. White. It was confirmed that White's character from the first two films would return, and that the post-credits scene in God's Not Dead 2 would hint at the plot of the next film.
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