Overcomer is directed by Alex Kendrick. It stars Kendrick, as well as Priscilla Shirer, Shari Rigby, Jack Sterner, Cameron Arnett, and Aryn Wright-Thompson.
John Harrison teaches at a Christian school, where he’s a basketball coach and loves his job, as well as his family. But the town shuts down its largest factory, laying off much of the workforce, causing many people to move away. The school principal appeals to him to teach the cross country running team due to the dwindling staff, which only ends up with one runner – a girl with asthma, no less. Detesting his current situation, Harrison must come to terms with what he’s given, meeting an ailing man in a local hospital who helps him get in touch with himself and God, and who may have a connection to his lone runner.
Overcomer is the latest in a long line of Christian films which seem to be aimed squarely at their target audience, with no real appeal to mainstream audiences. The Kendrick Brothers, Alex and Stephen, continue to make films, with this being their sixth. I’m sure Christian audiences seeking by-the-book entertainment will like what they see here, but mainstream audiences will be less enthused.
One of the biggest problems with Overcomer is its casting. It’s clear most of the people in the movie have little or no acting experience. This results in scenes packed with overacting, and scenes in which the younger actors look like they’re reading from cue cards. Alex Kendrick has proven himself a suitable director, but probably should have hired a more convincing actor for the role he plays as the coach. The only convincing performances in the movie come from an ailing hospital patient and a criminally underused drama teacher (give that guy a spin-off!) That’s about it. I didn’t buy the performances here for a second. One scene of one of the coach's sons describes how he'd "fix running" to make it more interesting, and quite honestly, what he describes is far more interesting than anything we actually see on screen.
The film also bites off more than it can chew. Right from the get go, we have stories about a coach forced into a sport he doesn’t want to coach, a young runner girl with a troubled past living with her grandmother, and the economic fallout resulting from people leaving the city when a factory closes down. The film can’t juggle three plots, and the end result is everything fills rushed and underdeveloped. It also ultimately opts for spiritual songs and montages instead of deep storytelling, though this is hardly surprising. The movie will ditch plot points, only to bring them back haphazardly. Some scenes are cut abruptly short for no apparent reason. It doesn't help the final product drags on for nearly two whole hours.
The movie doesn’t even succeed in creating a convincing world. The Kendrick Brothers are lost in a fictional dimension where kids still refer to their parents/other adults as “sir” and “ma’am,” there are no non-Christians whatsoever, and, as is all too common with Christian-themed films, loving and believing in God and praying will apparently solve all of one’s problems. The real world this isn’t.
Let me make it clear that, while I’m not spiritual and/or religious, I DON’T hate Christian films. The 1925 and 1959 versions of Ben-Hur, as well as the 1956 version of The Ten Commandments, rank among my favorite movies of all time. Last year’s I Can Only Imagine wasn’t half bad either. And Novitiate, from 2017, was surprisingly powerful and revealing. That said, poor filmmaking is poor filmmaking, and no genre gets a free pass from this critic.
Overcomer does nothing to help the growing numbers of poorly-made Christian films rushed out to the market. This genre is knee-deep in weak movies, which truly needs to change. It won’t make a Christian out of anyone, and the film is overly sentimental, awash in manufactured drama with inauthentic performances you won’t buy. It’s not the worst movie in this genre, but well below the better entries. Skip it.
Rating: One star out of four.
DISCLAMER: All images in this review are the property of their respective copyright holders, including Affirm Films, Kendrick Brothers Productions, Provident Films, and Sony Pictures. For promotional use only. All rights reserved.