Prayer Focus
Movie Review

The Gospel

MPAA Rating: PG-Rating (MPAA) for thematic elements including suggestive material and mild language

Reviewed by: Rosemarie Ute Hoffman

Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults, Teens, Family
Drama, Music
1 hr. 43 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
October 7, 2005 (wide)
Featuring: Boris Kodjoe, Idris Elba, Nona Gaye, Clifton Powell, Aloma Wright, Omar Gooding, Yolanda Adams, Martha Munizzi, Keshia Knight Pulliam, Donnie McClurkin, Tamyra Gray, Hezekiah Walker, Delores “Mom” Winans
Director: Rob Hardy (“Pandora’s Box” / “Trois”)
Producer: Will Packer, Holly Davis-Carter, Fred Hammond
Distributor: Screen Gems
Copyright, Screen Gems Copyright, Screen Gems Copyright, Screen Gems Copyright, Screen Gems Copyright, Screen Gems Copyright, Screen Gems Copyright, Screen Gems
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Screen Gems

Hypocrisy in the Church—Why would I want to be a Christian when there are so many hypocrites? Answer

Why should Christians go to church? Answer

How to choose a good church (part of our Save Yourself Some Pain: 10 Tips for New and Growing Christians pages)

See it! Live it! Spread it!

Here’s what the distributor says about their film: “The Gospel” explores the inner-workings of a church. Told from the perspective of the pews, the film gives a realistic portrayal of people dealing with true life struggles and issues. Maestro Kirk Franklin helped set the tone by writing music for the film’s performance sequences.

Here is the 411! The Gospel is not only entertaining, but it weaves a sobering message for the Church. Rob Hardy, director/writer, has done a brilliant job in making art imitate life. He skillfully removes the veil from our eyes as he exposes each layer—the inner-workings of church, the complicated relationships in the midst of church family, the humanness of spiritual leaders, and how they often confuse progression for spotlight.

Aside from all the drama, the energetic worship services throughout might have most viewers, even the more reserved, participating in their movie seats—as their body and spirit, move in sync to a heavenly beat. Gospel music blends Christian religious lyrics with melody and rhythm, which first grew and became popular with African-Americans and white Southerners, but is admired now worldwide.

David Taylor’s (Boris Kodjoe) character mimics the biblical parable of The Prodigal Son. After the death of his mother, the young David (Michael J. Pagan) leaves New Revelation Church where his father is the cofounder and bishop. His exit is an eruption of oppressed feelings that state the obvious—his father always has time for the church, but not for him. His life in the world includes hit records, plenty of money and women, and the all-encompassing living for his flesh. Fifteen years pass before David returns for a visit, and he does so because he learns his father has a terminal illness.

Wesley (Omar Gooding) is David “D.T.” Taylor’s manager who eagerly gives voice to the flesh. He promotes promiscuity with women on standby, and uses the phrase “dime brizzles” [meaning whores] from rap artists Snoop Dogg and Pharrell Williams in Drop It Like It’s Hot. Wesley also vocalizes on numerous occasions to David, “Wesley said it, and it shall be done!”

David’s love interest at New Revelation Church is choir singer, Rain (Tamyra Gray an “American Idol” finalist), a mother of a five-year-old girl. Her candid remarks and quick wit reel David in—hook, line, and sinker! However, it is not long after that Oscar (Dwayne Boyd) (a military man who is Rain’s ex, and who has been stationed in closer proximity) is back on the scene.

After a successful mentorship in ministry, training under Bishop Fred Taylor (Clifton Powell), Frank Charles (Idris Elba) takes over the New Revelation Church. The Reverend Frank Charles’ behavior is questionable while trying to increase attendance and raise funds for a new building. His campaign slogan: A new man, a new church, a new vision. At a celebration event that includes top-billing performers—Yolanda Adams, Martha Munizzi, and Fred Hammond, he further tells a crowd that Moses was also given a vision from God and had naysayers that challenged his destiny. It is apparent that Reverend Charles forgot the benefits of preaching and opening the altar the old-fashioned way. He would much rather use the hyped-up, infomercial approach that the other all-star gospel gangs are using.

Charlene (Nona Gaye) depicts a tightly-wound woman who refuses to have intimate relations with her husband the Rev. Charles. Her character is distant and often cold, yet, she can be more approachable with others. Her underlying behavior towards her husband is revealed by the end of the movie, along with a desperate plea that her husband, the Reverend, needs Jesus!

Two welcoming voices in the wilderness speak truth, Ernestine (Aloma Wright) and Minister Terrance Hunter (Donnie McClurkin). Ernestine is the loyal congregant and worker that has been through the conception, labor, and birth of New Revelation Church. Her wisdom reaches David and makes a difference. Minister Hunter serves under the Bishop, and then later serves under his successor the Reverend Charles. Though unlike Ernestine, Minister Hunter’s mission is to provoke Reverend Charles while using direct dialogue.

Luke 15:32 “.we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.”

The Prodigal Son returns and admits the error of his ways. His father rejoices and celebrates by clothing the son in his best robe, putting a ring on his hand, and sandals on his feet—along with a fatted calf for a feast.

Being lost is not just associated with nonbelievers. Unfortunately, some church folk (which may include clergy, ministers, or pastors) have gone astray. Some find themselves on the outskirts of God’s will because of man-made formulas and/or confusing progression for spotlight. These and other subtleties are disguised as “God’s vision,” but it is only a setup for ruin—ruined hearts, relationships, and lives. God forbid! Getting back to the beginning and surrendering to God’s Holy Spirit is key, for He is our helper.

Violence: Minor / Profanity: Minor / Sex/Nudity: Mild

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

Viewer Comments
Neutral—Although the movie was well made, I felt a little bit led astray by the title. I knew the premise of the movie, but I was dissapointed that the actual Gospel message was not clearly presented. There was a lot of talk about God and the way He can help, but not much about the details of faith in God or why these people trust in Him. The minister “needs Jesus,” but we never hear why or how. There is a positive aspect of redemption and restoration through the story of the prodigal son and his “jealous big brother” cousin, but perhaps the movie would have been better titled “The Prodigal.”

The music was great and definitely a highlight of the film. The acting was believable, and it drew me into the struggles of the characters for the most part. The end was wrapped up well, but I was still left questioning some of the actions of the church leaders by the way that this movie portrayed the subject of placing people who are into positions of leadership who are living lives of hypocricy. It seems to be a movie that does not promote the Biblical teachings of having those in leadership needing the characteristic of being “above reproach” in their walk with God as they lead a body of believers.

The redemption theme was very encouraging, but the timeline of instilling leadership into the spotlight came out backwards against the process of being redeemed in the first place.
My Ratings: Better than Average / 4
Joel, age 25
Positive—I came about this film because the trailer was on the Left Behind III DVD. I went on the Internet and found that the only place it was playing in New England was at Randlph, MA. I went right from a business meeting to the movie theater, a 35 minute drive. I gave up a chance to make more money, but the LORD was telling me to go. It was worth it a thousand times over. This is the type of movie I have been praying for. I hope it stays out in the theater for another week, because I am going to bring my entire Band of Brothers, Men’s ministry, from my church to see it. I would encourage all teenagers and older to see this film. We need more like it.
My Ratings: Excellent! / 5
Robert J Merrill, age 33
Positive—Overall, I give this film 4/5. The only complaint is the story line is a little flat. At 1 hr and 45 minutes, I don’t think they could have got much else in. I would have liked to see a little more character development around the newer preacher. Soundtrack is great. Filmmaking quality is excellent. Overall, this is an evangelical film. Not over the top, but definitely gives the credit to Jesus (blatantly).
My Ratings: Excellent! / 5
Aaron Cavanaugh, age 28
Positive—This is a great movie. I watched the Preview, and I plan to go back to see it again… This is a classic “prodigal son” story presented in a present day view. The characters are believable and the storyline is strong. I highly recommend it.
My Ratings: Good / 4½
Deborah Jackson, age 42
Positive—I have never heard or seen an ad about “The Gospel” until I came across it on the Internet, quite accidentally. It was represented by both Sony and Screen Gem, which suprised me even more. …I saw the movie and thoroughly enjoyed it. The cast did a wonderful job, especially new comer and American Idol finalist Tymra Gray. Yolanda Adams rocked the house with the title theme song, and more than just songs, the story is strong, too. It’s about the politics inside the church which is often ignored in, even, Christian themed movies. Surprising and refreshing to see a realistic portrayal of the church from Hollywood.
My Ratings: Excellent! / 4½
Mang Yang, age 33
Positive—Thanks for making a movie I can take my mother to see. Loved it.
My Ratings: Excellent! / 4½
Esther, age 42
Positive—This movies was very enjoyable, and I would see it again. I went out to get the soundtrack the very next day—awesome music. Only one part that I was uncomfortable with… the son in a strip club with a dancer on his lap. This scene was brief. I would recommend this movie highly!
My Ratings: Better than Average / 4
Elena, age 46
Positive—I think the film was not only positive but a start to make a difference for Christian films. It was nice to see so many Christian artists come together for the project. I would have liked to see more character development in the lead character, like more going back into the scenes as a child that would have led to become this “Prodigal Son.”
My Ratings: Good / 4½
Roma Diallo, age 34
Positive—…enjoyed very very much. Must say the music is amazing. I will get the soundtrack. Will add a couple songs to my playlist for my Saturday night contemp Christian radio show. I recomend this movie for an older audience—would not take young kids. This is a movie that will leave you thinking about priorities, motives, and people inside and out of THE CHURCH.
My Ratings: Good / 4½
Movie Critics
…show[s] how God’s love can transform lives…
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Monica Haynes
…a likable movie done with verve and style…
Chicago Tribune, Michael Wilmington
…deals knowledgeably with the role of the church in black communities…
Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert
…There’s a lot of talk here about religion, as well as plenty of gospel singing, but no sense of what these characters truly believe, what it is that drives their faith…
LA Weekly, Mark Olsen