Fireproof and Courageous. Sherwood Baptist Church started with this little film on a budget of $20,000, and holy crap does it look cheap. This has the audio and visual quality of a local business TV commercial. This had a very limited theatrical release in 2003 and didn't see a DVD release until 2007 after Sherwood had it's big break with Facing the Giants.
The story of this film is about Jay Austin, a dirty used car salesman who cheats anyone and everyone he does business with and is also up to his neck in debt. The bank is about a month away from seizing his business. Oh and he's fighting with his wife and neglecting his son. He ends up deciding to give his life to Jesus so he resolves to be a better husband, a better father, and an honest business man. When he announces that prices would be cut to a more fair market level his two salesmen quit rather than take the resulting cut in their commissions. He ends up hiring a new young salesman who is actually an undercover reporter doing a story on crooked used car salesmen. When the story runs, spotlighting Jay as the only honest salesmen the reporters found he becomes a media darling and his business booms to the point where he can pay off his debts and he even decides to go back and refund the customers he's cheated. With all the media attention he gets one reporter does an interview with his former employee who tells all about the rat bastard Jay used to be. Just when you think that news story will ruin him all the people he's refunded come out of the woodwork to speak to reporters and show that Jay is indeed a changed man.
This movie was, amazingly, not that bad. Sure it suffers from obvious technical problems, according to Wikipedia, co-writer Stephen Kendrick said, "We produced Flywheel with one Canon XL1s camera, G4 Mac computers and some Final Cut Pro editing software.". So it's bound to be pretty poor from an audio and visual standpoint. But from a story and even an acting standpoint it was far better than the studio's two newer and bigger budget follow ups I watched, Fireproof and Courageous. Unlike Fireproof, this movie doesn't waste a ton of time on pointless and uninteresting subplots, plus it doesn't have a main character that completely undermines the narrative. And unlike Courageous this is a solid story rather than several related meandering mini plots that largely amount to a big nothing.Flywheel knows what it wants to say and manages to say it in a decently engaging way. It even handles the "God works in mysterious ways" in a believable but creative way.
Obviously this movie had it's flaws, like most Christian movies it's a little too sanitized. I don't know why Christians have to make EVERYTHING family friendly. Some stories can't be told properly in a G or PG way. Half of what's in the Bible, if translated faithfully to film would get a hard R. Giving this a bit more of an edge probably would have reached more non Christians. Also it helps to be a little more subtle with your message rather than hit people over the head with it.
Having seen this studio's two latest movies, and now their first, I gotta wonder, at what point did they stop trying? This was a decently watchable movie, whereas, despite higher budgets, Fireproof was a mess and Courageous was just boring drivel.
Sherwood pictures has another film, a football movie called Facing the Giants. That was probably their most critically and I think commercially successful movie but I don't think I'll be reviewing it. Reason being, as I said before, I have zero interest in football. So I don't think I could be fair to it as I would probably dislike even a good football movie. So, at least until their next film I am done with Sherwood pictures, a fact of which I thank God for.