Letters to God (2010) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Letters to God (2010)

Danny no longer writes for Can't Stop the Movies, and can be reached at his fantastic site Pre-Code.com

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Danny INDIFFERENTLetters to God is blather. Bland, inoffensive blather.

It's the story of young Tyler, a boy struck with a rather nasty cancer. His father has passed on, and his nurse mother has to take care of both him and his disaffected older brother. Also along for the ride is grandma, who at least gives mom someone to complain to.

Tyler's cancer has caused him to ponder the afterlife, and in doing so he decides to write and send daily letters to God. They're mostly conversational pieces, and while it kind of sucks being in a one-sided pen pal relationship, Tyler seems okay with it. "It's like texting your best friend!" he declares at one point, though it's never pointed out that one-way texting is usually classified as stalking.

Tyler becomes a focal point of those around them; they see how much his love for God gives him peace in spite of his condition, and they somehow rediscover their own spirituality.

I could try and point how cynical and shallow this is, but it pretty much is attuning itself to the normal Christian film tropes. The adults are always lost amid the bustle of everyday life, the kids have to have the threat of the Christian God explained to them so that they can capitulate, and then there's one funny and wise old man who tells the children about the glories of God and orders them to proselytize. To have a woman play that last part would probably cause an outrage.

The main convert in Letters to God is thankfully given halfway of a free will, and that's postman Brady. He's a drunk, inconsistent at showing up to work, and likes working on the inside where he can just sleep through his days. He's assigned a new postal route, and is soon opening up Tyler's letters and feeling ashamed of his misdeeds in life. Since Brady is given the motivation to change as a character, his arc feels remarkably less manipulative than usual for this kind of movie.

That's not to say that this movie doesn't have its moments of offensiveness to anyone who's a non-believer.In particular, when Tyler and his friend Samantha visit her wacky old grandpa (see old man from above), he insists that Tyler become a warrior for God. Since Samantha is a girl, she's assigned the role of peacemaker. That's what you get for having ovaries, kid.

I was also particularly fond of one scene where Brady beams at Tyler, "You've been handpicked by God!" If you've been following this so far, here's a reminder, he's been handpicked to have cancer. Strangely enough, soon Tyler gets to turn that on his own mother when he sweetly says, "You know that God picked you to be my mom?" which also sounds like adding insult to injury. But I digress.

Despite all this, despite the hilarious literal songs (for Brady drinking: "There's no message in this bottle... why do I need to see the bottom?"), despite the the Dove Foundation Seal of Approval attached (if there isn't already an axiom for this label, I would like to suggest, "if you see the bird, it must be a turd"), and despite the PG rating for, I kid you not, "Thematic Material", Letters for God is the closest you're going to get to inoffensive for this sort of film.

I will give the filmmakers for having the guts to use the ending that they do for a family movie, and I will also admit that they paint a surprisingly rosy portrait of the Postal System. Though I won't say which choice shocked me more.

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Letters to God (2010)

This film is available on DVD and Netflix Instant.

Directed by David Nixon
Starring Jeffrey Johnson and Tanner McGuire

Posted by Danny

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