The Christian message gets through in irreverent comedy.
Even before “Faith Ba$ed” was shot, various conservative news outlets branded the film “Christian bashing.” Lost in the coverage that generated a reported ten thousand negative comments was the fact that the film’s writer, Luke Barnett, grew up in a household led by a pastor.
After watching the film, I can safely say that there’s nothing in it that mocks people of faith. Quite the opposite, “Faith Ba$ed” might be one of the best Christian comedies to date.
When Luke (played by Barnett) becomes disillusioned with his participation in a pyramid scheme, he decides to try something new. His part-time job as a pool boy isn’t working out either. Adopted when he was young by a kind progressive minister (played by “John Wick’s” Lance Reddick), Luke thinks that the sure-fire way to a financial windfall is to cash in on the popularity of Christian movies. After all, Luke reasons, Christian films don’t even have to be any good to make big bucks.
In his new enterprise, Luke enlists his best friend Tanner (Tanner Thomason). A popular bartender, Tanner is the kind of ladies man with exes that carry no grudges. He reluctantly signs onto the project. But, like Luke, his experience in the film industry is limited to watching movies.
Both men share a collective adoration for a wrestler, turned action star, Butch Savage (played by David Koechner). And throughout “Faith Ba$ed,” we get various VHS quality clips of Savage dolling out ridiculous advice. He encourages kids to eat his sugary cereal, for example, so that they will grow up to be big and strong, just like Butch. Koechner is perfect for this ridiculous role.
After some thought, the two budding film producers decide to set their film in space. They naively believe that they will make a movie about the first prayer from the stars. They vacantly forget that more than one astronaut already performed that essential etherial duty. But in space, can anyone hear you pray?
So much of Luke and Tanner’s life has been marked by insincerity. Maybe in making a movie that supposedly trades on the deep-seated beliefs of others, they can latch onto to something authentic in their otherwise shallow lives. Luke and Tanner are a couple of amiable dudes, who have never grown up, and in Christianity, even their progressive view of it, they may mature.
“Faith Ba$ed” is a good-natured look at what it means to be Christian today. It has fun with the “come to a service, grab a gourmet coffee in the lobby, and rock out with the band before the sermon.” Modern churches, especially the mega-variety, are almost intentional parodies of themselves. What matters is the message, and if the message gets through, what does it matter that they cheese it up a little?
Surprisingly, producers Thomason and Barnett, with the assistance of director Vincent Masciale, all veterans of Will Ferrell’s “Funny or Die” platform, amassed a recognizable collection of top-shelf comedic acting talent for their relatively low-budgeted film. In addition to Koechner and Reddick, they’ve got Margaret Cho playing a profane, no-nonsense film producer, veteran actor Richard Riehle as a barfly, and Jason Alexander as the leader of a pyramid scheme. Alexander’s recurring presence adds a lift to the film, as his salesmen Nicky Steele offers up foolish words of wisdom.
Bluntly, the right-wing pundits were wrong about this movie that they have never seen. Of course, the attention that they lavished on this little comedy experiment has only served to provide it with free advertising.
Barnett and Thomason even made a YouTube video answering many of the advanced production criticisms. And ironically, this minor controversy proves their point. Christian films are a way to make money, even before you’ve said “action.” The fun-loving team behind “Faith Ba$ed” should ride their notoriety all the way to the pulpit, and after tithing handsomely, they should stop off at their local bank. Praising Him has never been more profitable.