A tragic waste of Shania Twain.
I’m only on Day 10 of practicing social distancing, but you guys, I’m already feeling nostalgic about going to the movies. The big screen, the popcorn, the excitement of seeing a new movie with a crowd of people…I miss it. The last time I was there was two weeks ago, seeing the faith-based romantic-drama, I Still Believe (2020). Now, unless they were all from Bible camp, I have a feeling that the large amount of teenage girls in the audience had less to do with the movie’s message of believing in miracles from above, and more to do with the casting of the hunky, KJ Apa. Hey, whatever packs people into seats, I suppose. Although, when one tween said, “who is Shania Twain?” I had to fight against my natural inclination to kick them out of the theatre.
Based on Christian singer-songwriter Jeremy Camp’s memoir of the same name, I Still Believe follows Camp as he begins college and meets Melissa Henning, the girl he would end up marrying. When Melissa develops cancer, the young couple and their faith are tested as they fight Melissa’s illness while encouraging followers worldwide to pray for a miracle.
So, I thought that I Still Believe was going to be a rockin’ biopic about Jeremy Camp’s early life and musical breakthrough, subjects I knew absolutely nothing about before seeing this movie. Even after seeing it, I still hardly know anything about the singer. That’s one of my biggest gripes about I Still Believe. It’s extremely thin on plot. Practically nothing even remotely interesting happens! The whole movie is essentially a two-hour long montage of Jeremy and Melissa sharing a G-rated, sugary-sweet romance. Which is fine, but there’s only so much sugar one can stomach, y’know? The whole thing is very sweet and innocent, like a Disney Channel Original Movie set in college. When the movie does get into Melissa’s diagnosis and battle with cancer, it provides some much-needed kick to the bland romance, but there’s still something lacking. The problem, in my opinion, is the severely underdeveloped characters.
Apa and Britt Robertson, starring as Jeremy and Melissa respectively, aren’t terrible actors. Apa manages to pull off more than one dramatic monologue with adequate acting chops, and when it comes to capturing the frustration and uncertainty of a woman going through cancer, Robertson nails it. There’s even the faintest of sparks between the pair. However, both performances routinely fall flat because the actors are given no characterizations to work with. Literally, the only discernible qualities for either of them are, “sweet, pretty, dull, and unwaveringly faithful to God.” Oh, and a little unhinged. Seriously, Robertson was giving off crazy eyes from the beginning of the movie to the end. The poor writing makes the characters come off as soulless and one-dimensional, which doesn’t allow us an an audience to relate to, understand, or care about the characters. Like, the reveal that Melissa has cancer is meant to be dramatic and emotional, but doesn’t leave much of an impact because we never get to know who she is as a person outside of being a God-loving, Christian rock groupie.
I’m not very familiar with Christian rock, but if it’s anything like the music in I Still Believe, I’m okay with not familiarizing myself with it. All the songs sound the same. They’re all basic and unmemorable, and yet, EVERY character praises their brilliance. Of course, Apa’s mediocre singing ability does little to sell one on the music. His voice is averagely “meh,” and if this makes sense, sounds about as lifeless as someone’s echo in a can. Really, I’m sure the only reason Apa was cast was so he could use I Still Believe as an audition for the inevitable album he’s sure to release in the next year.
Speaking of musicians, one of the most UNFORGIVABLE things about I Still Believe is its underutilization of one, Ms. Shania Twain. Twain plays Jeremy’s mother, Terry, a role I can’t fathom why she took. Twain doesn’t get to much more besides comfort her son, wipe down a table, and laugh with her husband. She doesn’t even sing! In a movie about music! It’s mind-boggling. Almost as mind-boggling as some of the creative choices I Still Believe makes. Choices like; dressing everyone in costumes that look like they came off the rack at Walmart, depicting Jeremy showing up to college with nothing but a duffel bag and a guitar, showing an audience in 2002 record a show on IPHONES, and never really explaining how Jeremy became so famous. This movie refuses to go into detail about anything!
If you had told me that I Still Believe was based on a Nicholas Sparks book, I’d believe you. It’s filmed and written just like one! Except much more shallow and boring. Seriously, I kept praying that this movie would get better, but it never did. Overly gushy, people were audibly “awwwing!” and crying not because of genuine human emotion, but because of an over reliance on stereotypical, tear-jerking clichés. You do not need to see this movie. It has some moments that might interest some of the more spiritual of you out there, but ultimately, I believe that this movie is a dull dud.
Will you see I Still Believe?
Let me know in the comments or on social media!