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With the Vietnam War raging in 1969, two young fathers report for duty. A man of great faith and a doubtful cynic. A quarter-century later, their sons, Wayne and John Paul (David A.R. White and Kevin Downes), meet as strangers. Guided by handwritten letters from their fathers from the battlefield, they embark on an unforgettable journey to The Wall-the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. Along the way, they discover the devastation of war cannot break the love of a father for his son. Written by
"Faith of Our Fathers" should be evaluated like any other film, regardless of its message.
Christian movies sometimes get a bad rap. Now, I'm not talking about their theology. I'm talking about their quality, which has generally significantly improved in recent years. Many critics are quick to denigrate a faith-based film because of its overtly religious message, but they forget that every movie has a point of view. I believe that movies should be judged on their overall quality, not on how the person writing about the movie feels about that film's particular perspective. If a film is written, directed, acted, shot and edited well and, most importantly, if the finished product as a whole is entertaining, then that movie deserves a good review. Of course, I also believe the opposite. So, regardless of whether I personally agree or disagree with the film's message, I'm ready to practice what I preach in reviewing "Faith of Our Fathers" (PG-13, 1:45).
This film tells two parallel stories that unfold 28 years apart. In Vietnam, in 1969, a squad of U.S. soldiers, including Bible-toting Christian Stephen George (Sean McGowan) and skeptic Eddie Adams (Scott Whyte), are led by battle-hardened Sergeant Mansfield (Stephen Baldwin) on a mission behind enemy lines to recover the crew of a downed aircraft. In the U.S., in 1997, Stephen's and Eddie's sons, John Paul (Kevin Downes, also the movie's co-writer), who lives in California, and Wayne (David A.R. White, another co-writer), who lives in Mississippi, meet and go in search of answers about their fathers, both of whom died in the war. (By the way, that's not a spoiler. It's the premise of the movie.) John Paul (not named after either of the two popes who used that name, but after three of the Beatles, since his last name is George) is to be married in three weeks, but his fiancée (Candace Cameron Bure) encourages him to pursue the questions raised by the discovery of his father's Vietnam War memorabilia. Starting with just a name mentioned in one of his father's letters, John Paul finds Wayne, the son of the man mentioned in the letter and travels to Mississippi to meet and talk with him.
John Paul, like his father, is a clean-cut, strong Christian man. Wayne is a reclusive country boy who is more likely to shoot at an unwelcomed visitor than invite him in. The one thing both men have in common is a desire for answers about their fathers. Wayne coerces John Paul (who, naturally, he calls "Ringo") into joining him on a road trip to find their fathers' names on the Vietnam War Memorial ("The Wall") in Washington D.C. Along the way, Wayne allows John Paul (for a fee) to read Wayne's fathers' letters to see what he can learn about his own father. The personalities of the two men clash, but we witness their shared history draw them closer together, as we also see flashbacks of their fathers bond on the battlefield.
"Faith of Our Fathers" is a well-named film with a well-constructed story. The movie appropriately honors the sacrifices of those who have served our nation in combat, while another prominent theme is the love of fathers for their children. The two main plots each unfold logically and the editing of the film tells the story well. Unfortunately, my praise for this film ends there. Some of the decisions the characters make and some of the things that happen to them either don't make sense or feel contrived. The acting in the scenes on the road trip is unconvincing and dialog that is meant to be funny is just silly. The acting and the dialog are both a little better in the Vietnam scenes, but the scenery in those segments is decidedly low rent. There is a decent twist late in the movie that connects the two story lines, but even that plot point feels like it's only there to serve the film's not-too-subtle purpose. The Bible verses, talk of salvation and sinners prayer make it obvious that this movie was made mainly to convince casual Christians and non-believers to become born-again Christians. But regardless of whether you're up for a conversion message or not, "Faith of Our Fathers" features an engaging story, albeit one with significant deficiencies. "B-"
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