The estimated box office for the weekend puts “Courageous” at $8.8MM and slots it as the 13th best Christian film of all time. By next week it will be in the top ten, surpassing the Kendrick brother’s first popular film “Facing the Giants.” But, success isn’t the only thing Alex and Stephen are facing. The weekend saw the first critics slamming the film for not using the proven and standard story structure that has given rise to thousands of box office successes.
Instead of following those standard rules, Alex and Stephen focused on taking the audience on an emotional journey that leads them to face a decision of whether or not they are willing to be courageous in their own homes. The Inception type ending leaves the audience with plenty to discuss and a decision of what they might choose for their life.
The universal question that seems to permeate the plot line is, “Are you willing to lay down you life for your family.” Rather than resolving it in a clean manner by the end of the story, the audience is taken on an emotional journey to see numerous demonstrations of what that resolve might look like based on the lives of the ensemble cast. By the end of the film, a new question is asked, “Are you willing to make that same resolve in your life?”
It wouldn’t surprise me if the emotionally charged ending of the film drives men in some theaters to physically stand in accepting that same resolve. It certainly sparked conversations within families who attended and charged men to do what is deep within their hearts to do.
By the end of the weekend, I had bumped into several men who saw it. They felt the emotional pulse of the film was too strong and they would not watch it a second time, but pointed out that they would consider the resolve in their own life. Others hearing about the high emotions within the film, chose to avoid it because they didn’t know how to deal with such an onslaught of emotions.
The intensity of the film at one point, did get where I too felt uncomfortable and hoped for some comic relief, and relief is what I got. The humor in the film generated several belly laughs, making me wonder if Alex and Stephen might some day consider making a hilarious comedy, bringing joy into our lives during these difficult days with a message of hope. They certainly have the aptitude for good clean humor.
The intensity of the film did cause many to wipe their eyes once or twice. And, it made even good fathers consider whether they should step up to become great fathers. The new format, which seemed to be similar to a sermon, worked well for the story and seemed perfectly at home focused on it’s primary market – The church.
In my mind, “Courageous” surpasses Alex and Stephen’s previous films because they got back to the core of what they do best, preach to the church. Rather than watering down their message to make it more universal, they focused on the church, knowing that there would be some people on the fringes that see it. This focus on turning what is on their heart into a work of art makes “Courageous” more emotionally charged than any of their previous films and worth seeing.