What If... (2010) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
2Apr/112

What If… (2010)

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

Danny LIKEWhat If... begins with the thickest pap smear of foreshadowing you could lay on an audience with a straight face. Kevin Sorbo and Kristy Swanson are talking in a bus station straight out of 1956 and discussing Sorbo's imminent departure. While some melodramatic piano music bits bid him adieu, Sorbo is about to head off to the big city to get a job! Swanson is panicky-- what does this mean for their relationship? And, more importantly, what does that mean for the ministry they'd been planning?

Sorbo persists and gets on the bus, though not before he gets a gift from Swanson-- a Bible. One would hope he'd already have one if he were seriously considering a ministry (or he may have read it before, but that, too, is apparently hoping too much) but even this fantastic gift does nothing to dissuade Sorbo.

FIFTEEN YEARS LATER. Sorbo is a big shot! He's running corporate buyouts and pushing people around. If you're in a film that's obviously backed by Christians, you know you're in trouble as soon as you begin identifying with the Romans.

"You're not Julius Caesar"
"No. He didn't think big enough."

He's still a pretty nice boss as, even after closing the big deal, he's quick to give his assistant a big raise. And besides getting promoted to partner in the company, he plans to celebrate by buying a BMW, flying to Paris and dining with his fiance.

So here we have Kevin Sorbo, star of TV's "Hercules" and movies along the lines of An American Carol and Meet the Spartans who's left his good, Christian girlfriend and become someone who could best be described as generically evil. Bad enough that you know he's "bad" (the Romans! Caesar!) but still nice enough to be redeemable by the people behind the camera. Now if he was banging that secretary on the side...

But I suppose that would have thrown this film much closer into the cartoon territory occupied by the '00 Nicholas Cage flick The Family Man. And I don't bring up that film on a whim, as this one is pretty much a cleaned up copy and paste in a lot of ways.

That's not to say it's bad in any way-- in fact, a significant reduction of Tea Leoni has never hurt a film-- but once you know the premise you get the urge to just fast forward to see if the film has any twists and turns. And considering the pedigree of this movie, I wasn't expecting a whole lot. The only other Christian flick I've seen with the 'what if you didn't love Jesus' motif was Second Glances, which heavily implied that not being Christian leads to divorce, murder and suicide. And 'heavily implied' in and of itself may be an understatement.

So it's much, much, much to my surprise how much I ended up liking What If.... It succeeds for a couple of reasons, and the first and foremost has to be that, somehow, for a made-for-Christian-let's-make-some-of-that-Fireproof-money flick, it has some fun with it's plot.

Setting the former business big shot into the life of a small town minister through the intervention of an angel (more on that in a minute) sounds like a setup for some rote comedy, but Sorbo and the scriptwriters have some fun by putting his character through situation after situation that involves him using and abusing his business acumen before finally giving in and buying into the fantasy. We get some scenes like Sorbo paying off a beau for his sudden daughter's affections, or him consoling a couple by doing a quick run down of their financial possibilities and delivering a grim prognosis with unnerving glee.

Of course, and this completely weirds me out to say this, but I can't imagine a better actor here than Sorbo. He's calm and self effacing, and just goofy enough that you can buy him as both a big shot and a small town preacher. He's helped out by a great supporting cast, especially Swanson as the confused wife who has enough faith to stick it through and John Ratzenberger as the remarkably nice angel who also enjoys punching Sorbo in the head far more than some of your Bible translations would allow.

What's nice about this movie is that while it's deeply rooted in Christian values and ideals, that, outside of the extremely cheesy opening, it's fairly even handed. There's a sprinkle of Old Testament, a bit of the New, but surprisingly the film makes Sorbo's transition less of a self-righteous Christian one and more of a spiritual one. If that makes any sense. His main transition is summed up from his choice of radio stations in the film: starts out angry rock, becomes quiet country.

What If... has a silly premise, a cheesy plot, actors more known for camp than serious chops, and a precocious child to boot. That the movie turned out as entertaining as it did is almost some sort of miracle.

Posted by Danny

Comments (2) Trackbacks (0)
  1. I enjoyed the review of this movie. Its nice to see the secular side “surprised” by a Christian Family genre film. When I started watching “What If” I saw the similarities to “Family Man” with Nicolas Cage, which use to be my favorite “what-if” movie. However, I have to say that PureFlix did an outstanding job keeping the film heartfelt, not too terribly cheesy and funny, while also keeping out the bad language and sex. It is just refreshing to see a well-made film that can replace bad language with good words, and sex with true intimacy. The most challenging part of a Christian Family genre type film done by a good company like PureFlix or Jenkins Entertainment is finding top-notch actors that will do the parts. You would think actors would know that the family film is still the largest chunk of those that actually would pay to see a movie, either in theater or DVD. I say, keep up the good work. We are out here and we will keep supporting you.

  2. Cheesy. Much too predictable. Ludicrous at times such as when Sorbo tries to wedge his way back into his old office. Any credibility of the character must diminish at this point – how long should it take a “smart” person to realize he’s in a different dimension (remember Nick Cage “not cool! Not cool!) good for long standing moral values of course. No real need to contrive such a situation to impress us with that. On the plus side, how nice to watch a flick without anything embarrassing. Thank all for that.


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