Thursday, November 3, 2022

Double Feature Month Begins

The Grace Card
and The Second Chance (2006)
If you look at the archives here at Movie Churches, you might notice that we've been around for seven (very fun) years. But even fun things must come to an end, and after the end of the year, I won't be posting weekly anymore. When this blog started, a writer friend of mine said, “It won’t be long before you run out of movies to write about.” 

This has not been the case. 

Researching films took some work. Initially, I went to Wikipedia and looked up “Fictional Clergy” which provided fodder for years. When reading about films, I would note whenever clergy or a church was mentioned. I had a long list of potential films from the very beginning (I still have a long list of potential films).

The next challenge was actually watching the films. In a perfect world, I'd watch the film on a big screen, but this was possible with very few films. Some were readily available on streaming services (Netflix, Amazon, Youtube, Tubi, etc.) while others were not. Some movies were available on a streaming service, but they'd vanish before I watched them. I was able to get some films from the library (both DVDs and their streaming services, such as Kanopy.) This just confirmed my preference for actual physical media -- I want to know the film is there to watch when I want to watch it, so I kept my eyes open for titles from my list (particularly at garage sales and thrift stores). 

As we reach the end of regular updates on this blog, I have quite a few films that I own that I haven't written about. This month, therefore, is dedicated to those unblogged DVDs on my shelves. I won’t get to all of them, but I'll do my best. This month, you get a double feature every week.

We’re kicking off with two films about race which could also be loosely defined as buddy films. You know, the films with two guys (or two women or more rarely, a man and a woman) who are completely different and can’t stand each other but as the film goes on they build a grudging respect and become a team. This could describe films from Dirty Rotten Scoundrels to Green Book to Up. In the strictest Hollywood formula, it’s two cops. One plays by the rules while the other is a loose cannon. One is young, and one is old. One is black, the other is white. The Lethal Weapon films are the purest essence of the cliche that is the Buddy Cop film. And that's what The Grace Card proves to be as well.

Bill ‘Mac’ MacDonald (Michael Joiner) has been on the Memphis police force for years working (and failing) to be promoted from patrolman to sergeant. The much younger Sam Wright (Michael Higgenbottom) has just been promoted, and Mac wonders if the fact that Wright is black influenced the promotion. In addition to his work as a police officer, Wright is a pastor. (Another cop asks if Wright will hear his confession; Wright responds, “I’m a Nazarene.”)

Naturally, their captain (adhering to the formula for this kind of movie) assigns Mac and Sam as partners. Mac is not pleased. When Sam tries to sing hymns in the patrol car, Mac tells him to shut up (Mac does have a point there). Sam asks him, “Is it just the sergeant thing, or is it a black thing too?” (Not a plot point, but I couldn’t help noticing that these cops in a 2010 film aren't wearing seat belts.)

Sam is keeping up with his church gig as well. His wife says, “I thought we’d be in full-time ministry now. I thought this cop thing was just until the church was up and running.” 

But Sam’s mentor (and grandfather) Lou Gossett Jr. tells him he should stick with his police work because it's keeping him involved in the community. (Free tip: always listen to the Oscar winner.)

Eventually, we get to see Sam in a church service. Since we evaluate churches as well as clergy in movies, I want to mention that the church's music is quite good, and the people in the worship service seem to be enjoying being together. Sam begins his sermon by saying, “I want to get to Sunday supper just as much as you do.” (This kind of thing makes me worry I’m in for a long sermon.) Sam brings his frustration with his partner to the pulpit and gives a sermon on the importance of loving your enemies, even racial bigots. The response is not very positive, and he wonders whether he should continue in ministry.

But things continue to be difficult between the partners, as Mac acts recklessly and threatens suspects. Both cops want to quit. But then (spoilers) Mac’s son needs a kidney transplant and film-viewing experts will know who the only suitable candidate to provide the transplant will be.

Mac and his family and other white people begin attending Sam’s church, and it begins to prosper. That grudging respect between the partners grows into genuine love.

In 2006’s The Second Chance, we don’t have policemen. We have two pastors. One is black, one is white. One's from a wealthy megachurch, and the other from a struggling inner-city church. They are both young, so they have that going for them.

Christian singer Steve Taylor wrote and directed this film and cast an even bigger Christin recording star, Michael W. Smith, to play Associate Pastor Ethan Jenkins. Jenkin’s father’s church, The Rock, supports the inner city church Second Chance. When Ethan allows Second Chance’s pastor, Jake Sanders (Jeff Obafemi Carr), to speak at The Rock, he berates the congregation for supporting his church with only money and not time and energy. Ethan gets in trouble with the Board. He is sentenced to intern at Second Chance.

There is an Instagram account called PreachersNSneakers. It features pastors that wear very expensive shoes -- leading observers to ponder whether the pastor’s priorities are in order. Ethan doesn’t wear sneakers, but rather Gucci shoes. Jake takes to calling him Gucci. (I work in the inner city and can confirm that people are often judged by their shoes.)

Ethan makes some rookie mistakes. He drives his expensive car to church and leaves it unattended on the street. Not surprisingly, someone breaks into the car. He gives a man in a recovery group a big wad of cash, not thinking that the man might use cash on drugs. 

But he learns. 

And he begins to work well with Jake, saving the pastor when he’s threatened by a group of young thugs.

When The Rock, a megachurch, colludes with the city to tear down Second Chance in order to build a sports arena, Ethan and his father support Jake and the congregation of Second Chance -- the two young pastors not only become buddies, they bring in Ethan's dad as a mascot of sorts. 

So how do these churches and pastors rate on the Movie Churches Steeple Scale? Sam’s church in The Grace Card gets 4 Steeples, as does Jake’s church in The Second Chance. But the megachurch, The Rock, in The Second Chance rates only 2 Steeples. 

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