I’ve been known to have an upturned nose when it comes to Christian films. When talking about Christian films, I tend to default to Jay Sherman: I hated it.
Let’s just face it. Christian films are terrible-mainly because Christian films are never really attempts to be films. Instead, they are usually overly-priced Gospel tracts. But Christian Films are worse than Gospel Tracts, because Gospel Tracts have the decency at the very least to recognize their target audience: those who are not Christian.
Gospel Tracts that are disguised as Christian films are marketed towards those who don’t need Gospel tracts: The Christians. Likewise, the films themselves present such a watered-down view of sin that the stories are often shallow and corny. Thus Christian films somehow find a way to simultaneously succeed at not being Christian, while also not being a film.
Yet, most likely out of guilt and some flawed sense of responsibility, Christians continue to flock to these movies.
This weekend another Christian film hits the theaters.
I was given an opportunity to watch an early preview of Moms’ Night Out for free at the NRB conference this past February. I was prepared to watch a disaster. I even brought my laptop into the screening auditorium, opened to my Google Drive, and ready to write down every witty pop-shot I could think of.
My plans were to be merciless. Christian films deserve it. They are long past mercy.
But then something crazy happened!
I started laughing and enjoying myself. I ceased to be Jay Sherman… closed my laptop…and momentarily forgot I was watching a Christian film.
Moms’ Night Out stars sitcom royalty Patricia Heaton, most famous for her work as Debra Barone in Everybody Loves Raymond, and the overworked mom Frankie Heck in The Middle (one of the few sitcoms I watch).
Patricia plays the uptight and somewhat self-righteous pastors wife of Pastor Ray (Played by Sherwood Baptist’s own Alex Kendrick) who is invited to a Moms’ Night Out by her younger fellow church mom, Allyson (Sarah Drew).
All these mothers really want is just one night without having the responsibility of being a mom. For one night, they desire to just leave the children in the hands of their husbands, who (unfortunately but expectedly) have the parental competence of kindergarteners.
This is not your average Christian flick. Mainly because it was entertaining. There was actual comedy that received actual laughter (from myself). What starts out as a simple plan to just go out with the girls turns into a comedic adventure along the lines of an extended episode of The Middle. (Not surprising, seeing that Patricia Heaton and her husband David Hunt are the executive producers.)
One doesn’t simply cease to be a mother. Not even for a night.
This film has nothing to do with abortion, the word pro-life is not even mentioned, but it is perhaps one of the most pro-life films I have seen in recent memory. Moms’ Night Out places motherhood on a platform. It honors mothers who are simply mothers. It seeks to reward the beauty of being a mom, and the glory found in raising children.
Usually I despise the whole sitcom dad-incompetence we see over and over again. I really do miss the Bill Cosby style of father. But in Moms’ Night Out, the incompetence was integral to the goal of the plot. The clueless fathers serve as a Reductio Ad Absurdum to further the point that mothers have a tough job. It’s not something anyone can do, and let’s just be honest-being a mom is not something dads can do.
Moms’ Night Out is not a perfect film. It’s definitely still a Christian film, and although I forgot that it was for most of the movie, they make sure to smack you upside the head with a reminder towards the end of the film. Yes, Moms Night Out has the cliche altar call moment. That shouldn’t shock you, seeing that it co-stars Alex Kendrick, the top-man for all the Sherwood Baptist films. Perhaps tacked on Gospel presentations is part of his contract for being in a film.
It’s not that I have anything against Gospel presentations in films. I don’t. The problem I have is that they are often unnecessary,watered down, and forced. A film shouldn’t come to a stop when the Gospel is presented. The entire plot and premise should be an exposition of the Christian worldview, not just tacked on at the end like a bumper sticker! Moms Night Out succeeds in the former with no need for the latter.
With Moms Night Out, the Christian Worldview is inherent in the entire film in such a seamless way that you can’t help but to know you are watching a Christian film, even though the pure enjoyment of it all makes you forget. So the cliche altar call moment, which is not even the most theologically sound moment, seems to just be in the way, and serves as a prime example as to how the glorious Gospel can just become a frustrating cliche.
Does it destroy the film? Not at all. Does it take away from the film? Not really. Moms’ Night Out is still a good film that I believe will actually surprise everyone at the box office this weekend. It does exactly what films are supposed to do…entertain the viewer while providing them with a great excuse to have a night out.