I honestly don’t know what is more offensive to me; Alex Kendrick’s abrasively preachy screenplay, his complete inability to direct a single sequence in a way that is realistic or technically competent, or the fact that he casts himself in what must by blindness of vanity and power. I venture to say that the acting is the most offensive, but all of Overcomer reeks of opportunism and pandering trying to disguise itself as sincere faith. It feels like the only thing that Kendrick really believes is that he doesn’t have to improve as a filmmaker for sheltered and naïve Christians to continue to throw their money at him. The only thing that has changed over a decade of shitty Alex Kendrick films (Facing the Giants, Fireproof, Courageous, War Room) is the size of the role he gives himself.
But perhaps it is a mistake to direct all of my irritation at Kendrick, at least Alex Kendrick. There is plenty of blame to go around, including his brother Stephen, who co-wrote the screenplay bordering on propaganda, and Alex’s son is also cast in a role to complete the display of nepotism. It doesn’t matter though. Even the actual “actors” are painfully bad at every turn, many of which are returning from past films having learned no lessons from poor reviews. This latest abomination is also unsatisfied with using just one of the popular faith-based-film story tropes (most popular are ‘the sick child,’ ‘a marriage in trouble,’ and ‘underdog sports’), and instead combines several into one film.
The film starts with high school basketball coach, John Harrison (Alex ‘I-wrote-the-dialogue-but-still-can’t-say-lines-convincingly’ Kendrick), who is expecting a perfect season until a factory closing results in nearly all of his players moving away. Angry at God that he doesn’t get to win at a stupid game despite still having a job, unlike many of the families in town, John throws a few temper tantrums before he starts coaching the track team. Why the school principal (Priscilla Shirer) is encouraging John to coach the track team when there is only one interested student, is a mystery never adequately answered given the financial state of the school. This is the least contrived situation of many, however. Not only does the one student inevitably become a contender for that final big race, but she also has a family member reconnect through absolute happenstance.
At the beginning of the story, Hannah Scott (Aryn Wright-Thompson) is a kleptomaniac forced to move schools after problems. She is living with her grandmother, who has kept secrets about Hannah’s parents. This is where both the medical side of the story tropes comes into play, as well as some flashbacks of marital distress. We even get the bonus of substance abuse added to the list. Thankfully, we don’t have to spend an entire run-time on any one of these contrived and cliché storylines. Instead, there is a jumbled mess of all of them, which is at least a little less predictable. The whole endeavor feels preachy and judgmental in a way that some Christian viewers seem to enjoy. Not this viewer. Not this Christian.
The Blu-ray release comes packed with special features, half of which are exclusive to this high definition release. The DVD (a copy of which is included in the package) has a number of extras as well, but the Blu-ray contains all of those and many more. The Blu-ray package also comes with a digital copy of the film, for those that need multiple ways to watch and share this Sunday-school storytelling.
The special features exclusive to the Blu-ray include a number of promotional featurettes, clearly designed to sell this film to a church audience. One talks about the heart of the film, while another is about working with the Kendricks. There are several more of these in the special features also available on the DVD. The Blu-ray also has some exclusive technical featurettes, such as one about the film’s opening drone shot, which they seem particularly proud of. There are also two different post-production featurettes and a music video. Also included (on both discs) is a blooper reel, ten-minutes of deleted scenes, and a commentary track with the Kendrick brothers. I must admit, I did not/could not make it through that commentary track. Life is too short to be that annoyed.
Entertainment Value: 0/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 1/10
Historical Significance: 0/10
Special Features: 7/10