“Miracles From Heaven,” the latest feel-bad, feel-good drama with heavy Christian themes isn’t the worst of its kind. It’s pandering, it’s simplistic, it tries very hard to make you cry and make you laugh in equal measure. What can I say…I am easily manipulated sometimes. I didn’t hate it, and that’s precisely the problem. “I didn’t hate it” seems to be the best Christian cinema can hope for in 2016.
Every twenty or thirty years we get “Ben-Hur” or “Passion of the Christ,” while nearly every year we get “Fireproof” or “God’s Not Dead,” either something terribly made, something terribly misguided (enough with the persecution complex), or both. Is it so much to ask of Hollywood to produce a religious picture without cloying theatrics? “Noah” was a nice attempt inevitably thwarted, as atheist Darren Aronofsky completely alienated the core audience in the process. There’s a difference between making a movie for everyone and making a movie for everyone but Christians. Like most, “Miracles From Heaven” has the opposite problem. It preaches to the choir when it doesn’t have to. Unlike most, they’ve chosen some decent actors for the starring roles, so the preaching is somewhat authentic at least some of the time. Jennifer Garner can cry with the best of them, Queen Latifah has been sorely missed, John Carroll Lynch is a supporting treasure, and C-list beefcake Martin Henderson is a breathe of fresh air amid all of this exhausting sadness. Kylie Rogers avoids the many pitfalls of precociousness that often befall child actors in these films, wonderfully embodying the withering innocence and resolute faith of a young girl diagnosed with one rare disorder…and of course, she’s as sweet as they come. Forgive my faux-parental fawning, but Rogers and her fellow young’uns are pretty darn luminous, enlivening any scene that threatens or fulfills the promise of eye-rolling sentimentality.
Unfortunately, no matter its good actors or good intentions, it’s still another example of the industry’s seeming inability to marry the disparate categories of Christian mores and great movies. We are currently in a golden age of television and blockbuster filmmaking. For every “Catwoman” there’s now “Deadpool.” For every “Die Another Day” there’s now “Skyfall.” Eventually Christian cinema will arrive. Eventually.