I’m not a religious person so with the release of two new religious-themed films, “The Young Messiah” and “Miracles from Heaven”, I decided to shorten each of them and include them in this review of biblical proportion.
The Young Messiah
Mary (Sara Lazzaro), Joseph (Vincent Walsh) and 7-year-old Jesus (Adam Greaves-Neal) embark on a journey from Egypt to Nazareth after the young boy miraculously brings someone back to life. When King Herod (Jonathan Bailey) orders the death of the child, Roman centurion Severus (Sean Bean) starts to pursue the family across the desert. As Mary and Joseph worry about his safety, Jesus’ natural curiosity allows him to understand more about the world and his remarkable powers.
Everybody knows how this story started but a lot of us may not know how it started. Since we technically don’t have much to go on, based on the book “Christ The Lord Out of Egypt” by Anne Rice, this film tries to fill in the gap of the life of Jesus between his birth and what we all know happened later on. After watching it, I can’t help but to get that feeling that it probably didn’t really happen the way in which it was told. I also found that it shared a lot of similarities with an earlier religious film, “Risen“.
I’m not sure if the choice to make this film was a good idea, taking a character which we already know and then giving them a backstory but it’s hard to be engaged in a story when you don’t believe in what is happening. Also the fact that I was bored for around 3/4 of the film doesn’t quite help its case either. I thought the film’s pacing was pretty bad as nothing really happens as it felt like most of the film was the characters walking to something. At first it was from Egypt to Nazareth and then from Nazareth to Jerusalem for Passover.
Even with that, I never really had an idea of where the plot was going. Nothing remotely exciting occurred until the last quarter of the film but since we all already knew what happened next, that moment did not really resonate with me. Despite that, I still didn’t know where it was going.
In any film starring a younger actor, there is always the possibility of them coming off as annoying and Greaves-Neal who played Jesus here did have plenty of annoying moments but he was a kid who was curious about everything. He just seemed a little too naive for me. Joseph (Walsh) was the voice of reason here as he was who dictated the main plot.
Yes there were Romans here led by a centurion named Severus (Bean) but this angle did not seem explored enough. Since there was no conflict, we never really got a sense of who the villain was. The Romans were so underdeveloped that I didn’t care. Bean was okay but Severus was not very fleshed out as a character so I didn’t care about him either. I also found myself not caring about the people in Joseph and Mary’s entourage either as I didn’t know anything about them and they seemingly served no purpose. The rest of the acting was okay but everything just felt cheesy to me.
Overall, this is a decently made religious film but I just found myself bored and not caring for most of it.
Miracles from Heaven
Anna Beam (Kylie Rogers) lives with a rare, incurable disorder that leaves her unable to digest food. Despite the dire diagnosis, devoted mom Christy (Jennifer Garner) relentlessly searches for a way to save her beloved daughter. Everything changes in an instant when Anna tells an amazing story of a visit to heaven after surviving a headlong tumble into a tree. Her family and doctors become even more baffled when the young girl begins to show signs of recovering from her fatal condition.
Luckily for me, I don’t have to explain the plot of the film as it was pretty much all in the trailer. Despite that, I still saw the film and I will continue to talk about it for a little longer.
You get your seemingly happy southern religious family who has their faith tested once tragedy strikes. Personally, I don’t think being unable to digest food is a tragedy but I digress. Like I said, this is a religious film but religion did not have anything to do with the plot as it was just a characteristic about the family. Despite that, there was still plenty of praying and a lot of religious music. Unfortunately, this and most of the dialogue came off as incredibly cheesy and presumptuous to me.
The main focus of the film was the relationship between Christy (Garner) and her daughter Anna (Rogers). Because of their performances (but especially Garner’s), it was easy to believe that Christy cared for Anna and wanted what was best for her but there wasn’t much to Christy besides that. Yes I understood this but sometimes I found that Garner may have taken things a little too far by overacting some of the emotional moments. Rogers’ performance did not have that much range and consisted of saying that it hurts a lot. She did have one moment later on when Anna started to get depressed about her condition.
There is not really much else going on here since we already know from the trailer what was going to happen and why it happened, we were just waiting for this to happen. I found that this took a little too long for me. Once it did happen, I found that it happened a little too quickly and wrapped up too conveniently and in a very silly way.
Until that moment, we got to experience the best part of the film which happens to be Eugenio Derbez’s Dr. Nurko as I found him to be a great character and his scenes with Christy and Anna were somewhat entertaining to watch. Nurko was funny and very uplifting even though again, we knew how it would end.
Martin Henderson and John Carroll Lynch were also okay here as Christy’s husband Kevin and a local pastor respectively but didn’t really do much here other than being the sources of all the faith. Queen Latifah was also here as a wise-cracking waitress named Angela but I found her character served no purpose.
Overall, this was a decent, albeit cheesy film which was mostly given away in the trailer and teaches us that God may listen to us.