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Movie Review

Grace Unplugged

MPAA Rating: PG for thematic elements and brief teen drinking.

Reviewed by: John Decker

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Kids Family Teens Adults
Faith-based Music Drama
1 hr. 43 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
October 4, 2013
DVD: February 11, 2014
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Relevant Issues
Copyright, Lionsgate, Roadside Attractions

music in the Bible



overcoming the temptations of success

discerning what’s more important—God’s will or yours?

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Featuring: AJ Michalka … Gracie Trey
James Denton … Johnny Trey
Kevin Pollak … Frank “Mossy” Mostin
Shawnee Smith … Michelle Trey
Michael Welch … Quentin
Jamie-Grace … Rachel
Emma Catherwood … Kendra Burroughs
Chris Ellis … Pastor Tim Bryant
Rob Steinberg … Larry Reynolds
Kelly Thiebaud … Renae Taylor
Patricia French … Sally Benson
Anthony Reynolds … Quentin’s dad, Rick
Aimee Dunn … Quentin’s Mom, Donna
Pia Toscano … Alyssa
Tiffany Campbell … Shelly
Zane Holtz … Jay Grayson
Lauren E. Roman … Recital Announcer
Mary Shaw … Sharon Bryant
Derrin Stull … Radio DJ
Madison Wolfe … Young Grace
Director: Brad J. Silverman
Producer: Coram Deo Studios
Birchwood Pictures
more »
Distributor: Lionsgate, Roadside Attractions

“Sometimes, chasing your dreams leads you right to where you belong.”

“Grace Unplugged” meets the bar of higher quality production value that has been happening among Christian film lately. It is a morally clean, professionally produced, heartwarming film with some variety of characters. It proudly overcomes many of the odd obstacles of Christian movies past. It contains a clear Christian message, unabashedly holding up The Lord’s name. It makes priority of family, God-centered worship, and to some extent it attempts to teach us a little about parent—child relationships, though it does more to display common American family difficulties than present solutions.

The premise of this story is not what I would choose to reach a broad audience. I believe that among Christians and non-Christians alike, young and old, the subject of a girl who wants to become a rock-star lacks universal appeal. That’s just my opinion, and I’ll say this—for reasons of quality of story and production value, this film rises far above this conundrum; it delivers a story with plenty of appeal. I will also say that I was predisposed to not believing the best about the film because of the trailer, which I saw a number of times. It gave me the impression that this film was going to be a simplistic, high definition pirouette of an unrealistically narcissistic, self-centered teenage girl (ho-hum). Well, it is not. It is a good story and a great performance. It is moving and has some good meanings to draw from.

On the question of objectionable material—There is one use of the word a**. That is the only profanity I recall. There is no nudity or overt sexuality, but a couple of well masked conversations about a man seeking to take advantage of a woman and a lot of tight clothing in some shots—dancing in a music video, lying on a couch and some cleavage. There is no drug use and no violence. There is a lot of alcohol usage during one part of the story, not graphic drunkenness, just drinking and some bottles lying around, implying alcohol abuse and one scene where the main character gets a little dizzy and out of sorts for the amount of alcohol she has consumed.

(!!Note: The following paragraphs contains a spoiler in some sense, but it also is one of the most important aspects of this review, so I encourage you to take it into consideration before watching this film.) Finally, I do have a criticism about the story line which I believe is important for Christian culture to observe: One vital aspect of what is needed for Christian film to mature is realism. The armchair quarterback (read: movie reviewer) doesn’t have to fight on the battle ground of this realism—he doesn’t have to balance displays of sinful behavior and affections with sensitivity to age and in the broader sense, build a film that does not cause temptation, or display immoral material, and that does not in some way misrepresent reality or offend The Spirit of God.

That said, there is a dangerous precedent in the core narrative of this story which families should prayerfully consider and discuss: Hollywood, Nashville, any location wherein resides the bastion of secular art—powerful hedged-in cultures driven by untold amounts of money and sensual pleasure are not places from which characters easily return. In the “Grace Unplugged” narrative, a character can escape the evils of these modern empires relatively unscathed. As my wife put it, a portion of the film was wrapped in a bow, and when is Christian film not? After-all, who wants to see a hero ravaged, taken advantage of, brought to the point of death itself, when we can perhaps make a point about the dangers of sin and save our hero “too much” heartache? Are these our stories? Did you and I escape the clutches of the evil one smelling like things fair or foul? I know my path was none so pleasant.

For the arts—it is important that we tell a story which adequately portrays the paths in life. If we downplay the monsters, will Christians properly arm themselves? If we soften the faces of evil in the name of making our art more palatable, in a society that partakes so much of art, we may well be teaching falsehoods, providing false expectations and setting a net for the naïve. God forbid it.

Violence: None / Profanity: Minor / Sex/Nudity: Minor

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive—I took my wife and son to see this. We were moved by the film. It felt like a well made production. Her voice is truly remarkable, and it is very believable that she would be a big secular star. Her rebellion against her father is hard to watch at times, but sin is not pretty. And he calls it sin. The sleazy side of the world is given just enough screen time without leaving you feeling dirty. I don’t recall any profanity or taking the Lord’s name in vain.

The reviewer has a point—she doesn’t fall too far or get very morally corrupted, and I don’t know if that makes this film too “Hallmark” to please the masses, but I was glad I didn’t have to watch anything too nasty especially with my teenage son with us. I had one word to describe this immediately when it was over—Solid. My wife immediately wanted to recommend it to all our friends and family.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Blaine Comeaux, age 52 (USA)
Positive—GRACE UNPLUGGED was excellent. A Christian movie dealing with a time of a teen that wants to do her own thing. She wants worlds fame and she isn’t following God’s ways but again her own desires. BUt God is so great that he loves us when we were yet sinners. I think of this movie as a modern prodigal daughter spoke deeply to me as a dad and a follower of JESUS. So I ask myself am I remaining faithful? have I given my loved ones over to GOD?

I recommend this movie highly especially if you are a parent or a teen. By the way—the music in this movie top notch stuff.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Rockinron, age 50 (USA)
Positive—This movie is AWESOME! It is one of the strongest Christian movies I have seen. This girl was raised in church, then started chasing fame but found it empty and stood by her values and came back to God. It was so much more of a Christian movie then even I expected because of the review below under the neutral section. This is a great movie and great to see with family, for you can talk about so many issues she was dealing with.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Stephanie, age 39 (USA)
Positive—I thought this film was amazing! So many times you try to watch a Christian film (or even a “family-oriented” film), and it’s just so corny and poorly made, with bad acting, you can hardly stand it—this was so different! Great message, *and* well-made!

Was there anything shown that was unchristian? Yeah, sure-but it was shown as what it is-unchristian and dangerous. Like a temptation and a slippery-slope to be avoided. Don’t go there. There were some bad choices made-but they were acknowledged as bad choices, and forgiveness was asked. Life isn’t going to come at us pure and clean-there are messes to be avoided and choices to make. more »
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Martha Thompson, age 44 (USA)
Neutral—I am sorry, but I must have been out of the room when the term “Christian” was re-defined. To be a Christian is to be one who’s been to the foot of the cross in the realization that one is a sinner and that nothing short of repentance of that sin and full and unequivocal surrender to the person of Jesus Christ will ever do in the life from that moment on. It means a life changed and forever after sold out to the Lord Jesus in everything. It means a great deal more than the few paltry statements of pure unadulterated lip service that are contained in this film.

Being a follower of Jesus is more than playing the latest contemporary music in a church worship team, it means being his, twenty four seven, in all that we do. Walking in ways that please Him not striving to have one’s way because it satisfies the flesh. There is never any indication that the young lady in this film, or her father either, have got any more than a “little religion” which has made them somewhat different from those around them.

The new birth, regeneration, as specified by Jesus in John 3, and later in the NT in the book of Titus is a whole new way of life, because it’s life that God has given not simply a new way of doing things. “Christian” films today are marginalizing what it means to be a child of the King. And it’s so disappointing to see professing Christian brethren give them high marks simply because sex and bad language are being omitted. Our standards are being lowered each time a film of this genre makes its appearance.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Jim Duval, age 70 (Canada)

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