2017 has surprised me with its faith-based movies. Back in March, The Shack shocked audiences by being more than just a decent film, and just a few weeks ago, Same Kind of Different as Me blew me away by being even better. For the most part, these two films avoided the most painful clichés that go along with faith-based films, and featured performances and filmmaking that was thoroughly effective. I thought 2017 was going to be the year where faith-based movies could potentially become something beside a genre to avoid, but then Let There Be Light had to come in and round out the year. 2017 was still a great year for faith-based films, but with Let There Be Light in the mix, we are reassured the bad acting, clichés, and lamentable ideas notorious in faith-based films aren’t going anywhere.
Let There Be Light tells the story of Dr. Solomon (Sol) Harkens, the self-proclaimed “most famous atheist in the world.” We are told Sol’s son Davey died some years prior, and since his death, Sol became an atheist, preaching against God, and celebrating sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Seriously, that’s his slogan. Sol gets in a car accident and is clinically dead for four minutes. During this, he sees his son, Davey. When Sol wakes, his life is changed, he converts to Christianity, rebuilds his relationship with his wife and family, and goes on a mission to proselytize. Yup, that’s the word they used.
As the film begins and the opening credits play against some real footage clips of 911, the war in Iraq, and the immigrant crisis for seemingly no reason, the first name billed is Kevin Sorbo, who directs and stars in the film. The second name billed is Fox News icon Sean Hannity, who produces the film and has a two-scene cameo that apparently warranted second billing above all the other actors in the film. I’ll be honest, there was a good portion of the movie where I was afraid Hannity was going to try to act. After Hannity, Sorbo’s wife, Sam (who also writes the screenplay,) is listed, followed by the Sorbo’s two kids, who are given a nice “And introducing” prefix. Essentially, this movie is the Sorbo family using Sean Hannity’s money to make a movie that Hannity can be in.
If only they had stopped there. Frankly, I would have been much happier watching the Sorbo’s eat dinner with Hannity for ninety minutes. Instead, the Sorbo’s decided to make a film which lazily attempts to parallel the Biblical story of the Apostle Paul. (Sol = Saul; get it?) But don’t worry, there’s still plenty of focus on Hannity. We get a whole scene of Fox News posters, as well as a moment where one of the characters quickly details the impressive viewership of Hannity’s show, in very exact numbers.
While Sean Hannity’s extra presence in the film was a lovely indulgence, Let There Be Light still features all the classically cringe-worthy elements of the worst faith-based films. We’ve got Chick Fil-A plugs, humor focused around kids acting like adults, and painful green screen effects. For starters, these green screen effects were used to visualize what heaven looks like in single brief scene, which alone takes a lot of gall. But when such green screen effects are this bad and use cinematic techniques from the 1950s or 60s, it just makes it so much worse. My favorite part, though, had to be the end of the movie where they light up the world using cell phone flashlights. In addition to having these lights shine through the thickest canopied forests, there were also apparently people hanging out in unpopulated parts of the world, just so they could shine their flashlights. This movie is bad idea after bad idea, making it that much more painful when these bad ideas didn’t make any logical sense.
I could go on for some time tearing this movie apart for its bad writing, continuity, or lack of logic, but frankly I’m ready to publish this review and never think about the movie again. Before I do that, however, I will add one more thing. While this movie is bad for featuring almost all the negative elements of a faith-based movie in an exaggerated form, it lacks the one element of a faith-based movie that believers of that faith would deem most important: the ability to change the minds and lives of those who may be watching. Or as the Sorbo’s called it: to proselytize.
The film starts and we see the sinfulness of Sol’s life. After we cringe through his trip to heaven, his transformation into a Christian is almost instantaneous. There’s no transition, there’s hardly any of him asking questions; he just dies, sees his dead kid, comes back to life, and is suddenly changed. There’s nothing for an audience member to relate to and no convincing arguments made in favor of Christianity. If this movie says anything, it’s that being dead for a couple minutes, visiting heaven, and coming back is the only way to have your life changed and become a Christian. Unless the Sorbo’s are unintelligent or bad Christians, I don’t think that’s what they intended to say with this movie. Unfortunately, they did, and that’s why Let There Be Light is not only the worst faith-based film I’ve ever seen, but a total disaster of a movie.
I give Let There Be Light a 1.0/10.