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Movie Review

Woodlawn

MPAA Rating: PG for thematic elements including some racial tension/violence.

Reviewed by: Curtis McParland
CONTRIBUTOR

Excellent!
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults Teens Family
Genre:
Christian Sports Drama
Length:
2 hr. 3 min.
Year of Release:
2015
USA Release:
October 16, 2015 (wide—1,500+ theaters)
DVD: January 19, 2016
Copyright, Pure Flix Entertainment click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Pure Flix Entertainment Copyright, Pure Flix Entertainment Copyright, Pure Flix Entertainment Copyright, Pure Flix Entertainment Copyright, Pure Flix Entertainment Copyright, Pure Flix Entertainment Copyright, Pure Flix Entertainment Copyright, Pure Flix Entertainment Copyright, Pure Flix Entertainment
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Pure Flix Entertainment

RACISM—What are the consequences of racial prejudice and false beliefs about the origin of races? Answer

What can happen when people choose to love instead of hate?

forgiveness, reconciliation, unity, and healing

need for spiritual awakening / revival

faith

hope

Featuring: Jon VoightPaul Bryant
Sean AstinHank
C. Thomas Howell … George 'Shorty' White
Nic Bishop … Tandy Gerelds
Virginia Williams … Debbie
Brando Eaton … Mike Morton
Sherri Shepherd … Momma Nathan
Rhoda Griffis … Attorney Brenda Howly
Kelly Greyson … Shelia
Jet Jurgensmeyer … Todd Gerelds
Kevin Downes … Birmingham Reporter
Jason Burkey … Insurance Customer
Brett Rice … Whitehurst
Kevin Sizemore … Jerry Stearns
more »
Director: Jon and Andrew Erwin—“October Baby,” “Moms’ Night Out
Producer: Crescent City Pictures
Red Sky Studios
Distributor: Pure Flix Entertainment—“God’s Not Dead,” “Do You Believe?”

A spiritual awakening—One hope. One truth. One way.

Many may not know about the story of Woodlawn High School and the revival that took place. I, myself, can say that I sure didn’t. With his hopes and dreams of being a baseball player being shattered, Hank (Sean Astin) has become a chaplain and decides to focus on the salvation of the lives surrounding Woodlawn High School—more specifically the football team. Coach Tandy Geralds (Nic Bishop) does not want anything to do with Hank and his plan, but things begin to turn around for him and his team as this racially diverse school begins to form a bond and look past each other’s color.

Tony Nathan (Caleb Castille) steals the show, though, as he not only becomes the most talented football player at the school but one of the best high school players in the nation. “Woodlawn” shares the story of how one’s faith can be found, renewed, and restored.

For a faith-based film, “Woodlawn” is definitely one of the higher quality Christian movies you will see today in the theater. In fact, “Woodlawn” has some of the best cinematography and acting I have ever seen in a Christian film. The use of lighting with lens flare was fantastic, and the football sequences were extremely well shot and quite dramatic. Sean Astin, Nic Bishop, and Caleb Castille all did an excellent job in their roles, and I can most certainly see them acting in more films in the near future. The musical score composed by Paul Mills is epic in scale and adds much dramatic, emotional depth to the story. The Erwin brothers definitely stepped up their game in the filmmaking department, as well, but the most bothersome element to me was the rushed storytelling, weak dialog, and underdeveloped plot and characters. “Woodlawn” is certainly a large step in the right direction for Christian filmmaking, but one thing is for certain, faith-based films need much stronger scripts that do not preach to the choir nor keep non-believers in Christ away from the theater.

The overall content for concern is mild, as the racial tension may be the most concerning to families with younger children. There is no sexual content, and the closest to it is seeing a few couples kiss. As expected, there is no profane or vulgar language, but a few racial slurs towards Caucasians pop up, like the terms “cupcake” and “cracker.” The word “boy” is used as a put down, and “negro” is said once by a white character, as well.

Of course, there is some rough sports action as football players get in some scuffles and get knocked around the field. A player gets injured after a cheap hit and some minor brawls break out over some racial tension. A mass fight breaks out outside school, which causes some students to be hospitalized—one student is carried out on a stretcher. A bus is torched, and a brick gets thrown through a window missing a young boy. We see a character carry a gun, a football jersey being burned on a cross, and signs of a character being physically abused. We see some bruises. In terms of drugs and alcohol, one character is seen drinking a bottle out of a brown bag and another mentions taking a smoke. A football player vomits, but we don’t see him until after the fact.

“Woodlawn” shares a powerful story of faith, hope, love, and redemption, during even the most hardest of times. The film shows that racial segregation should not be taken lightly, and, although this story takes place back in the 1970s, it still shares a powerful example of all the racial issues our nation still faces today. Jesus says in John 7:24 (ESV), “Do not judge by appearances…” “Woodlawn” shares the message that we are all made in the image and likeness of God. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). The film simply shares that when we judge others, all we really do is harm ourselves in the process.

“Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness.” —1 John 2:9

“Woodlawn” is a film that most families will feel comfortable taking their children to. However, be prepared to discuss the topic of racial segregation, since this is the main theme of the film. The story is very redemptive and supports strong Biblical values, as God’s Word is cherished, the love of Christ is acknowledged, and the value of life, friends, and family are greatly valued. This film should be suitable for children ages 8+ and is one that any follower of Christ can enjoy. Racial tension is a serious issue in today’s world, and “Woodlawn” does an excellent job of getting its message across. It isn’t a fun topic to discuss, but it is a serious issue that needs to be discussed with younger generations before they learn about what the secular world has to say about racism. “Woodlawn” is a Christ-honoring film that not only shares a powerful message, but a compelling true story about a young man, his school, and a sport that changed many lives for the better in the small town of Birmingham, Alabama… and the entire nation.

“For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.” —Romans 10:12

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

Note: Sean Astin’s character “Hank” is actually a composite of three people: Wales Goebel, a former house builder who began reaching out to area high schools; Hank Erwin, father to co-creators Andrew Erwin and Jon Erwin, who was the team’s chaplain for two years; and Mike Huckabee, whose experience at Explo 72 informed some of the dialog.

See our Christian Film News article

Official site

RACISM—What are the consequences of racial prejudice and false beliefs about the origin of races? Answer

Racism, Racial Issues and Christianity
Get biblical answers to racial hot-topics. Where did the races come from? How did skin color come about? Why is it important to have a biblical foundation for such issues?

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


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive
Positive—I loved this movie! As a Christian, this is the type of movie I would prefer to see, rather then the secular Hollywood ones. To me, the main focus of this movie is LOVE. Loving others no matter how they treat you; LOVE is a conqueror in all things. It’s a good lesson for us all to love all who might be different then us. It’s the next greatest commandment, after loving God, as Matthew 22:37-39 states: And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

If we loved our neighbour like ourself wouldn’t the world be a much nicer place? This movie shows that I have to love others like myself and when I do a chain reaction happens and it’s such a good witness for Christ!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Gloria Sihlis, age 56 (Canada)
Positive—Saw tonight. Loved it and recommend to anyone. I personally know Tony Nathan, Jeff Rutledge, and Wales Goebel, and think there couldn’t be finer men to be honored in a movie. I love true story movies. This one ranks up there with “Remember the Titans,” to me, because of the close connections to the story. Granted the quality of the movie is not the same, but the spiritual message far exceeds the Titans.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Eric Pugh, age 62 (USA)
Positive—It was awesome finally leaving a movie without having to pray off any sexual images, vulgarity, or violence. This is truly a great example of what a Christian movie should be. Loved it and will not only see it in the theater again, we will be buying it!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 5
—MWest, age 41 (USA)
Positive—Seriously? I come to this site before watching about any movie, and I recommend to friends that they do so as well. I appreciate rating movie quality as well as content. But we, as Christians, cannot try to be just like the world or bow to its pressure. Weak storytelling? Preaching to the choir? Look, if you’ve noticed lately the choir needs preached to and strengthened and encouraged. And the world doesn’t need subtle hints or watered down sneaky messages. We need the truth in a powerful way. Any movie looking to make a difference for the kingdom should question itself if it gets a fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes.

This is a great, inspiring movie that everyone should see. It will energize “the choir” and presents a great chance to invite non believers that wouldn’t accept an invite to church. Hint: other sites are loaded up with bias to any hint of faith in a movie. You guys don’t have to overcompensate for your own bias toward awesome movies like this!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Shane, age 35 (USA)
Positive—Great football movie. Although there was a lot mentioned about God, and Christ, nothing was said about what was done for us by Christ. We don’t make him Lord, he is Lord. Although I enjoyed this movie, I would put it in the “prosperity gospel” category. “God wants you to be a superstar” kinda gives that away.

As a Christian, I am just happy to be able to watch ANYTHING with no foul language or cleavage, sex, or violence… And for that, I thank these film makers. But I also watch Cosby show for that. I’m just sayin. Yes, God is great…, and he wants the best for us, and that best is not here on Earth, it’s with Him, and only one way in Christ… Amen! Christ died for us sinners. God saves sinners. He doesn’t make bad people good. He makes dead people live. Can’t earn that. It’s just free… If we could earn it, he would never have had to come.

Thanks again for the clean film, love that. I’ll keep watching these clean films… can’t get enough of them these days. But what an opportunity for the gospel, was it edited??? So important, if you are a Christian filmmaker. You know, Persecuted Christians around the world, pray for persecution in America to wake and shake true believers? Interesting isn’t it? Make a movie on that! YEsssss… please yesssss. THAT would be fantastic.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Jeff, age 47 (USA)
Neutral
Neutral—Saw the movie, which was a true story, and it was a very good rendering of what happened during that time in our history. The problem with this film was that NO gospel was given. There were a lot of references to “loving” those who hate you… there was a scene in which the Coach came to the black church to confess that he had not been there for the black team members… no mention of sin or that he had accepted or even alluded to Christ as any part of his “new man”… yet he asked to be baptized!

My husband and I were both saved the same night in that era, and it was due to the gospel being plainly and clearly presented. Sin was a real part. Being lost without Christ was a real part. The movie left you wondering HOW to come to Christ. Although many movie makers are now becoming more predominant, I feel that a cultural gospel is being presented, instead of the one found in the Word of God, I Corinthians 15:1-4… the movie presented not even a watered down version. I hope that these “christian” filmmakers will not shy away from the truth of scripture in any forthcoming movies.

I would encourage true believers to also comment so as not to encourage the watered down version of what the think is some sort of gospel… That cannot save and often leads a person to think they are saved due to an emotional moment or event.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Michelle, age 68 (USA)

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