PureFlix Entertainment, a trusted name in faith-friendly movies, has an urban inspirational film called Do You Believe on the way to theatres.
Director Jon Gunn, recruited by producer Harold Cronk and screenwriters Cary Solomon and Chuck Konzelman (the trio behind the 2014 release God’s Not Dead) is bringing to life a multi-layered emotional journey with an ensemble cast, headlined by Cybill Shepherd (“Moonlighting”) Lee Majors (“The Fall Guy”) and Ted McGinley (“The West Wing”) and also featuring a bevy of accomplished actors and stars-in-waiting, including JJ Soria (The Fast & The Furious, “Army Wives”) Mira Sorvino (“Falling Skies”) Senyo Amoaku (The Expendables), Sean Astin (The Lord of the Rings), Delroy Lindo (“The Chicago Code”) Tracy Melchior (“The Bold & The Beautiful”), former UFC champion Mavrick von Haug, and rapper Shwayze.
In October, I traveled to Grand Rapids, Michigan for a meet-and-greet with several members of the cast and crew, and then visited the set, on location in sleepy Manistee (right off the coast of Lake Michigan), in order to get an insider view on how the film was coming along.
Full disclosure, the travel costs were covered by PureFlix and their promotional partners, so of course, I heard 48 hours of nonstop praise for the film. However, I have a pretty active layer of skepticism whenever I’m subjected to boilerplate marketing copy, and I still came away from the experience feeling pretty good about the movie’s prospects, not only as a successful commercial investment, but as a vehicle for evangelism.
Here are three reasons why…
1. It has a relatively diverse cast.
Borrowing from the Crash playbook requires a wider variety of characters than what we saw in God’s Not Dead, and it appears that with Do You Believe, we’ll get it. Cybill Shepherd and Lee Majors may be headlining as the graceful diva / elder statesman combo, but in the clips we saw and the cast that we heard from directly (as well as other cast referenced whose shooting schedules didn’t coincide with the set visit, such as the aforementioned Delrey Lindo), it seems like diversity is a priority in this picture. That doesn’t ensure greatness, of course, but for audiences who prioritize it, it’d be a reason for a second glance at the multiplex or the Redbox.
Ensemble films can be hit or miss, because they require a lot of story juggling and have less time for character development or plot exposition. But this one seems to be well cast. I’m particularly looking forward to seeing more of JJ Soria’s character, who is one of the film’s heroes, and who has an extended action sequence during the finale. The last time I saw a faith-based film with a strong Latino lead was Eduardo Verástegui in the 2007 indie film Bella. In the cast Q&A, Soria mentioned that he often turns down faith-friendly scripts because they’re too cheesy, but in this case, he made an exception. Here’s hoping that JJ Soria can keep building his faith-film curriculum vita.
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