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Friday, September 27, 2013

Grace Unplugged Movie Review

Tuesday night I attended a screening of Grace Unplugged in my local market. The movie release date is Friday, October 4. Grace Hill Media contacted me and offered me two free passes, which I eagerly accepted. Representatives from Grace Hill Media have not tried to sway my reaction to or opinion of the movie and this review is my honest assessment. (Keep reading for a chance to win a Grace Unplugged soundtrack, too!)

Grace and her father, Johnny, in the praise band.
My synopsis: Grace Unplugged depicts a young woman reaching for her dream but struggling between bending to the will of God and bending to the will of man. She grew up learning music from  her father, a former down-and-out, one-hit-wonder rocker turned Christian music pastor. Together they perform in their Birmingham, Alabama church's praise band. But 18 year-old Grace, played by AJ Michalka (who reminds me of Carrie Underwood), wants to be under the bright lights of a big stage. Clashes with her tight-fisted father strengthen her resolve to break away. Without the consent of her parents, she leaves for Hollywood to chase her dream.

The official trailer:

Five Reasons to Go See Grace Unplugged:
1) It's a Hollywood movie that presents overt Christianity without apology.
2) There's no foul language and no nudity.
3) It's a family-friendly movie without talking animals!
4) The soundtrack is fantastic. (Details below on how to enter for a chance to win the soundtrack. Keep reading.)
5) The good guys come out on top. It's a movie that leaves the viewers feeling positive and optimistic.
Bonus Reason: Grace is a positive role model for tween and teen girls. On the heels of Hannah Montana twerking, this is a welcome change from the mainstream.

Tween and teen girls will identify with Grace Trey.
My non-essential commentary: There is one huge, glaring error in this movie. I can't believe no one caught it. You'll think I'm quibbling here, but I'm southern and this is important. There's no ice in the tea! In several scenes of the movie, the characters drink tea without ice in it. They're in Birmingham, Alabama. No one there drinks tea without ice! (Sakes alive, now I'm thinking there might not have been any sugar in it either. Someone's soul is surely in jeopardy.)

A portion of the Topline Overview of Grace Unplugged:
Grace Trey has just turned 18 and aspires to do more than sing in her church’s worship band, which is led by her father, Johnny Trey, a one-time pop star who gave up his life in secular music when he became a Christian. Grace longs to escape his shadow and make a name for herself singing songs about something other than God, but Johnny warns her that fame is not as glamorous as it looks and reminds her that serving and worshipping God with the talent she’s been given is a far more worthwhile goal.

My review: While tweens, teens and young adults, especially girls, will love this movie, discerning Christian adults will leave wishing that it was more. The father, played by James Denton of Desperate Housewives fame, is a stock, stereotyped character. Viewers never get a glimpse of his internal struggle. As all Christians know, believing is easy, but faith is hard.  

I wanted to experience him wrestling with faith in God and His plan for Grace. I wanted the father to support Grace in following her dream, rather than fighting her on it, while at the same time reminding her of the pitfalls of temptation in the secular world. It was an opportunity for him to be honest with her about his past and it how it affected him. 

The movie needs authentic parental angst. It needs to touch on the difficulties of supporting a child as she begins adulthood and at the same time worrying about her. While watching, I desperately wanted Grace to remind her father that the low point of his music career was what brought him to Jesus. Then I wanted him to advise her to go change the world, but to not let the world change her. 

Seasoned adult viewers who are mature in their faith will also note that the movie missed an opportunity to make a statement about Christianity and to inspire those of us who may have lost the fire for evangelism. Without giving too much away, I will tell you that the movie ends with Grace singing to the choir, so to speak, which sends the message, "Christians belong at home with other Christians." 

But Christians do not fear the sin of the world. Mother Theresa didn't hide in her convent ministering to people just like her. She went among the poor and the dirty and the faithless and showed them the face of Christ. We are here to be the hands, feet and voice of Jesus for those who need Him most, not to sing to the choir. (In a later post, after you've had an opportunity to go see Grace Unplugged yourself, I will share with you my proposed ending. Oh, I should have gone into screenwriting.)

Overall, I say go see this movie and take the whole family. This film does an excellent job of depicting Grace's struggle with temptation, something we and our children face daily, without being graphic. Grace is a character audiences can latch on to and understand and root for. Her internal battle between doing her own will, other people's will or God's will is a universal theme. 

Parents and kids will come away with talking points to discuss over post-movie pizza. Underage drinking, the theology of the body, choosing role models, resisting temptation, personal prayer, identifying and using gifts and talents are all great conversation starters. You're likely to think of others after seeing Grace Unplugged. Asking younger viewers how they think the characters addressed these issues and what the characters might have done differently can make for lively table-talk that teaches a lesson without a lecture.

Instructions on how to  
Enter to Win 
a Grace Unplugged soundtrack. It's easy! Just leave a comment. Everyone who posts a comment will be entered into a random drawing. The winner will be announced on Thursday, October 3.

Enjoy the trailer one more time then go see the movie on October 4:

***Reminder: Enter to win a FREE copy of The Beast of Blue Mountain. Contest information is here. Entries must be received by September 30th. Be sure to let me know you are an Internet entry.


Anonymous said...

I loved your review and it sounds like a movie to share with my granddaughters. It sounds refreshing. It would be refreshing to just watch a movie absent the foul language and nudity.

Anonymous said...

I forgot to sign my name on the above comment. Sherry Schermbeck

Lucy Adams said...

Thank you, Sherry. I was hoping "anonymous" would come back a give me her name to enter in the drawing:-) I'm so glad you did.

William Kendall said...

Definitely haven't heard of it.

Ice in tea? That's a southern thing... I would never drink tea with ice.

Mary Aalgaard said...

Well written review. Hollywood wants to crush parents, especially Christian parents, as being closed minded. Most parents aren't so over the top.
Loved your comment about the non-iced-tea!

Lisa said...

I'm looking forward to seeing it! Thanks for the review!

Lucy Adams said...

William, you don't know what you're missing! My heart aches for the void in your life :-)

Mary, I agree.

Lisa, I hope you will go see it. I hope lots and lots of people go see it.

Rose Chandler Johnson said...

You've written an excellent review. This sounds like an inspirational must-see for young people in particular. I'd love to win the sound track for my grand daughter. Thanks for the opportunity. BUT, Yeah! what on earth! Have they never been in Alabama! You gotta have ice in the tea! Southerners complain up North (and in Paris!) when there is no ice in the tea. They needed someone verifying the culture.

Lucy Adams said...

Rose, you are entered.

I'm glad to see we southerners are in solidarity about this tea issue.

Stephanie Johnson said...

Thanks for a great review. I look forward to seeing it with both of my children--I especially can;t wait for the post movie discussion. Your description of the parental angst is spot on!

Lucy Adams said...

Thank you, Stephanie!

I look forward to comparing reactions once people have seen the movie.