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1 out of 4 stars


To Save a Life

  • Directed by Brian Baugh
  • Written by Jim Britts
  • Starring Randy Wayne, Deja Kreutzberg, Joshua Weigel and Robert Bailey Jr.
  • Classification: 14A

The Christian movie industry - a sizable niche market south of the border - has seen recent box-office success with low-budget family dramas such as Fireproof and Facing the Giants, both stories of men overcoming marital and work crises by renewing their faith. To Save a Life, the latest Christian flick to hit the circuit, is aimed squarely at teens, and while it doesn't shy away from including a host of messy problems (bloating the film to two hours), the answers may seem too pat for those not already on board with its philosophy.

Of course, one can't fault a Christian film for strongly suggesting that a good place to "check out" when one's world begins to crumble is a suburban Christian youth group. Indeed, that's where popular senior basketball star and non-believer Jake Taylor (Randy Wayne) heads after the suicide of his childhood friend, Roger (Robert Bailey Jr.), leaves him grappling with a guilty conscience.

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Neither Jake's hot girlfriend (Deja Kreutzberg), nor his constantly arguing parents, nor a few beers will ease his troubled mind. Then along comes cool youth pastor Chris (Joshua Weigel), persistent but never pushy, who sees a promising new recruit (or at least, that's how one cynical teen character describes the scenario).

Jake starts to frequent the youth group, engaging in spiritual chats with Chris and making friends. But his new groove distances him from his girlfriend, parents and basketball buddies (as represented by an excruciatingly lame beer pong sequence). This different kind of social estrangement is perhaps the most interesting notion in the film, sidebar though it is to the main action. And despite some truly clunky dialogue, it's portrayed quite effectively by Wayne, a TV regular who also starred in the film reboot of The Dukes of Hazzard.

Screenwriter Jim Britts, a film grad and youth pastor, makes sure to illustrate some of the hypocrisies that can be found in organized religion, lest we think the film one-sided. He also makes sure Jake either experiences or witnesses a host of problems facing today's teens - peer pressure, parental divorce, unplanned pregnancy (one wonders if this is the hidden message behind the film's title) - before he gets another chance to save a life. To Save a Life does not trivialize teen suicide, but it doesn't give the issue enough screen time for viewers to consider this serious problem more deeply.

To Save a Life opens Friday in various cities across Canada.

Special to The Globe and Mail

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