Bruce Bennett Short Bio

Bruce Bennett

Bruce Bennett has been the primary contributor to Mad About Movies since it began in 2003. He is an award winning film and theater critic who, since 2000, has been writing a weekly column in The Spectrum daily newspaper in southern Utah as well as serving as a contributing editor of “The Independent,” a monthly entertainment magazine. He is also the co-host of “Film Fanatics” a movie review show which earned a Telly in 2009. Bruce is also a featured contributor at: RottenTomatoes.com

His motto: "I see bad movies so you don't have to."

Courageous

Christian film praises God, calls out Fathers

Unabashedly pro-family and devoutly Christian-centered, “Courageous” is a rare mainstream film that dares to preach its highly controversial message in order to inspire the faithful while risking the ire of critics and non-believers. Its message? Fathers, man up.

As important as it is innocuous, such a topic won’t sit well with those who don’t like to mix theology with cinema, but brothers and filmmakers Alex and Stephen Kendrick are earnest in their desire to address an issue that has been virtually ignored by mainstream Hollywood.

And good for them for doing so.

While “Courageous” is a low budget film that suffers from clunky storytelling and some uneven performances from its plucky cast, when it is on message it is boldly unflinching and surprisingly effective.

The plot revolves around the lives of four officers in the Sheriff’s Department in rural Albany, Georgia. While all are somewhat religious, they are flawed, real characters that are dealing with difficult issues common to today’s fathers. The group has a good if occasionally corny camaraderie, but it’s genuinely funny too, as when one of the officers not once, but twice while concluding a phone conversation mistakenly says “love you” to his commanding officer. The action sequences, based primarily on gang-related confrontations, while not exactly “edgy” aren’t as unrealistic as you might think.

Interestingly, the film is at its most powerful (and no doubt polarizing) when it shows the officers making a solemn pact during a small ceremony in front of family and friends to abide by a father’s creed of exemplary behavior that includes serving others, living a life of integrity, and owning up to their responsibilities before God. Talk about shocking.

“Courageous” doesn’t aspire to be subtle, and those who criticize its occasionally heavy-handed nature are missing what the filmmakers feel is a sense of urgency about how many of society’s ills are directly related to the disintegration of the family, and more specifically absentee fathers. In the filmmakers’ minds, there’s simply no time to beat around the (burning) bush.  Besides, few have the condemned the award winning films of Michael Moore, Al Gore, or Martin Scorcese—three filmmakers whose methods no one would describe as “subtle.”

Yes, people talk openly to God (a lot) and cry (a lot) where a little would have gone a long way in these areas. A shorter version of “Courageous” might have made the film more effective. But to condemn the film on religious grounds alone is to miss the larger point of whether the world would be a better place if fathers everywhere took their responsibilities more seriously. It’s a worthy notion that “Courageous” hammers home with conviction and clarity.

Rated PG-13 for violence and drug use.

Grade: B+

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