Reviewed by: Curtis McParland
|Featuring:||Jon Voight … Paul Bryant
Sean Astin … Hank
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
|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.
“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.
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.
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