I thoroughly enjoyed the first movie in this franchise, and frankly I was skeptical that the sequel would measure up to it. But we did a movie night for the youth at my church this weekend, and one of my members had screened this and said it was quite good, so we decided that would be our feature attraction.
This story takes place in the same general location as the first film, and several of the characters from the first movie appear in minor or larger supporting roles - Chinese student and convert Martin Yip, blogger Amy Ryan, Reverend Jude the African pastor, David White as Pastor Dave, and the Gospel singing group The News Boys as themselves.
Here's the story: High school AP History teacher Grace Wesley is talking about Ghandi and MLK's philosophy of non-violent resistance and a student asks her about similarities between their thinking and that of Jesus. Ms. Wesley answers the question, quoting Jesus' own words from the Sermon on the Mount as recorded in Matthew's Gospel, and then quotes from Dr. King about how Jesus' teachings influenced his leadership of the Civil Rights movement. A student records the conversation on his cell phone, and it gets reported to the principal. Soon the parents of the girl who asked the question are suing the school, and the ACLU brings in a high-powered attorney (played with enthusiasm by the inimitable Ray Wise) to see to it that Ms. Wesley is ruined and a legal precedent established that will essentially ban the citation of Scripture in any public school classroom. The school board does agree that Ms. Wesley can be reinstated if she will apologize, pledge never to repeat such conduct, and accept a letter of reprimand. She refuses to do so on the grounds that she does not believe she has done anything illegal or even morally wrong - so they hang her out to dry.
Courtroom drama ensues, with several real-life experts on the historicity of the Gospels brought in to testify regarding the reality of Jesus as a historical figure of great significance, and as various secondary dramas play out in the background, the case goes to the jury after a memorable closing argument by Wesley's defense attorney Tom Endler.
Overall, I found this to be a much better done movie than the first one, with fewer moments that strained credibility and more believable performances overall. A number of famous actors and actresses - Pat Boone, Robin Givens, Fred Thompson (I believe this was his final film role), and DUCK DYNASTY starlet Sadie Robertson make appearances in the film, as well as a number of public figures, including Mike Huckabee, authors Lee Strobel and Jim Warner Wallace, all of whom make cameo appearances.
Probably the biggest stretch was the movie's attempt to work in the title and catch-phrase of the first film. It was only done in two or three scenes, and they felt forced. But those were just very brief distractions from what was, overall, a very well-done Christian film.
Then there was the matter of how realistic the storyline was. I mean, all the teacher did was answer a student's question about a historical figure (Jesus) with words that are attributed to him in the earliest and best-known accounts of his life (Matthew's Gospel). Could that really result in a lawsuit?
I teach by day in a private Christian school, so obviously quoting Scripture and treating Jesus as a historical figure is a daily thing for me. I also teach night classes at the local community college, and I've never hesitated to quote Scripture when it fit into the historical context of a lesson I was teaching at the time. I asked my wife, who is a public schoolteacher and who watched the film with me, what she thought. She said that here in the South, quoting Scripture as the teacher did in the movie - in a historical context to answer a question from a student - would most likely not raise an eyebrow. But in many other parts of the country, she said it was entirely possible that a lawsuit could result, and that the school would be perfectly willing to hang the teacher out to dry as Ms. Wesley's school board did.
One thing for sure: Christian films are getting better. There are still some true clunkers thrown up from time to time (SAVING CHRISTMAS, anyone?), but this was an entertaining film that made some valid points and featured some very solid performances.