FILM SYNOPSIS: On August 28th, 2012, EchoLight Studios launches DVD sales nationwide of the spiritual drama I Am...Gabriel. Directed by Mike Norris, I Am Gabriel takes place in a small, desolate town in Texas called Promise, and weaves multiple stories of individuals touched by tragedy and their varied responses to an unlikely messenger from God. It stars Dean Cain (Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman), John Schneider (The Dukes of Hazzard, Smallville), and young Gavin Casalegno as the title character.
The town’s citizens feel cursed after a tragedy 10 years earlier. Then a young boy wanders out of the wilderness into the lives of the beleaguered residents. Miracles start to happen. Some believe and find hope. Some don’t and grow desperate. Some see the adolescent stranger as a messenger from God, others a runaway kid, a huckster. Finally, as the town’s last skeptic backs him into a corner, the young boy reveals his identity.
PREVIEW REVIEW: Keep in mind, a review is just an opinion. Also keep in mind, it’s my job, my ministry, to give you my opinion and my loyalty. While I want to support anyone wishing to spread the Word of God, I don’t owe a loyalty to a film company. Ultimately, I am to serve you, not a well-intentioned production company. You are the ones who spend the money to buy DVDs or tickets to the movies. So, if I promote a movie I feel is inferior, then I’m not doing my job and we as Christians are saying we don’t mind inferior product just so long as the characters don’t swear.
Right about now you’re waiting for the other shoe to drop, right? Expecting a negative review. Well, I Am Gabriel is moving and thought-provoking. And…hey, it’s in color.
Not sure that quote will be on the box cover. While I can’t be overly enthusiastic, it’s not a bad movie. The film, however, doesn’t live up to the promise of the premise.
I got caught up in the fantasy (and I use that word in a positive manner), but I kept wishing for less and more. The expression “less is more” applies to the result of the filmmakers’ delivery. But the budget could have used lots more. Had the producers arranged for a bigger budget they might have then sought out others to handle the different aspects of the production, plus allowed for a script rewrite.
“But Phil, you can’t expect a religious film from a small production company to be on the same level as a Hollywood production.” Why not? You’re gonna pay the same amount to see it.
This production has all the subtlety of a political convention. There’s little surprise and the message is heavy-handed. These are filmmakers who know their way around the technical aspects of filmmaking, yet don’t seem to possess that intangible something that comes under the heading of brilliance.
Movies are most effective when they suggest rather than preach. The mistake many Christian filmmakers too often make is that they attempt to save souls rather than entertain. The problem with this theory is that too often the final product achieves neither.
Now, I Am…Gabriel is not that wanting. I just wish its makers would have attempted to be profound rather than preachy.
In the recent The Tree of Life, filmmaker Terrence Malick gave audiences an impressionistic story, a thought-provoking hymn to life that caused some to praise it as a work of art, while many left the theater long before the film was over. But friends and foes of that production got into their car and immediately asked, “What was that all about?” Their bewilderment then led to discussion and some got what Malick was trying to say, while others just wanted to get home to see a repeat of CSI. It was a visual and viscerally emotional feast sparked by exquisite imagery that was imaginative and profound, intimate and epic. It made us think, and once we thought, we were moved by the filmmaker’s suggestion that we need to embrace spiritual matters and that we must rely on faith when the conundrums of the day overwhelm. Like any artist attempting profundity, Terrance Malick provides an atmosphere and sets a mood suitable for examining our own beliefs, thus giving the viewer a renewed desire to share them with others. And Malick did more than awe us with his Tree of Life; he tapped into our subconscious, delving into spiritual and life-altering subjects.
Well, that sounds a little high-minded., doesn’t it? Okay, moviemakers don’t need a free-form art-house film to suggest the omniscient stature of God.
In the film Places in the Heart, a repentant adulterer is finally forgiven when his wife, moved by the pastor's sermon taken from 1st Corinthians 13, reaches for her husband's hand, signifying the restoring of a relationship through Christ's love. The scene then concludes, becoming a surrealistic parable of faith. As the communion plate is passed down the pew, we see every major character in the film, including the bad guys, partaking of the sacrament. Suddenly, we see two men, previously murdered, now mystically alive and sitting among the rest of the parishioners. The illustration represents a spiritual healing, a signal of hope and grace, and a challenging message to love and forgive one another. The first time I saw this sequence I was so moved I literally burst into tears. Not the most masculine of admissions, but the ethereal tableau touched me like no other moment I can remember in a film.
Often orchestrators lead their company not with a gentle baton, but with a heavy-handed sledgehammer. For example: the music score to I Am…Gabriel is syrupy, uninspired, and omnipresent, this being a frequent folly of low-budgeted films aimed at the church market. It’s as if the composers were being paid by the note. The good film score composers highlight or suggest a mood or an emotion. The bad ones dictate. In their defense, too often the narrative is so lacking in emotional impact that music is required to fill the void. Nearly all church films share this same foible.
Though the two name actors in the production are pros, they lack the charisma their first television series’ had slightly suggested. Though both these men might someday give us dynamic performances, they will only do so under more inspired directors.
And little Gavin Casalegno as the mysterious boy wonder is a handsome lad who can obviously memorize lines, but here he plays a caricature of a celestial messenger rather than a screenwriter’s fully dimensionalized creation. Why didn’t the director let the kid smile just once? You think archangel Gabriel never smiles? How about Jesus? How does our Savior or his angels bring joy without possessing an upturned grin?
As I said, it’s just an opinion. But be warned, it’s your money.
Not rated, I found nothing objectionable. Alas, I didn’t find anything inspiring, either.
From the press notes: Actor, director, writer and producer Mike Norris, son of legendary performer and martial arts champion Chuck Norris, founded 2nd Fiddle Entertainment to create faith-focused films that make a difference.
With numerous film and television acting credits, Norris also directed films and multiple episodes of the long-running series Walker, Texas Ranger. The film is available through such leading online and retail providers as Amazon.com, LifeWay Christian Stores, and Family Christian Stores, among many others.