Northampton Press

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Review: ‘Imagine’

Friday, March 30, 2018 by Paul Willistein pwillistein@tnonline.com in Focus

“I Can Only Imagine” is an inspirational movie about the writing of the hit Christian rock song by the band, MercyMe. The song received the 2002 Dove Award, the Christian music recording business equivalent of a Grammy. With 2.5 million copies sold, “I Can Only Imagine” is said to be the best-selling Christian pop music single ever.

The song was written by MercyMe lead vocalist Bart Millard. The song was inspired by the death of Millard’s father. Millard and his father had a contentious relationship, to say the least, which included abusive language and hitting. The father-son dysfunctionalism forms the main plot for the movie. Subplots involved the formation of the band MercyMe, Millard’s professional music career, and his relationship with the woman who would become his wife.

The movie, “I Can Only Imagine” is a bonafide five-Kleenex movie. In its plain-spoken and matter-of-fact way, it speaks to the heart of problems of a difficult family, especially the troubled times between Millard and his father.

The movie is anchored by a strong performance by Dennis Quaid , who plays Millard’s father. The father is a troubled soul, who can’t seem to get his life together. He is filled with anger and takes it out on his son. Quaid (“The Express,” 2008; “The Alamo,” 2004; “Any Given Sunday,” 1999; “Great Balls Of Fire!,” 1989) provides a disturbingly real portrayal, setting aside his former pretty-boy look to explore a wizened, bitter and unattractive old man.

“I Can Only Imagine” also has a fine performance by J. Michael Finley, a Broadway actor in his big-screen feature-film debut. Finley, who is somewhat of a dead ringer for Seth Rogen, provides a believable, in-depth, sensitive protrayal of a conflicted son and talented singer-songwriter.

Madeline Carroll has a nice turn as Shannon, Bart’s wife. Country singer Trace Adkins plays the manager of MercyMe. Brody Rose plays the young Bart. Cloris Leachman has a small role as Bart’s grandmother. Christian singer Amy Grant has a cameo.

The film is co-directed by Andrew and Jon Erwin, brothers who also co-directed “Woodlawn,” 2015, and “Mom’s Night Out,” 2014. They utilize lots of closeups for scenes with Quaid and Finley, as well as vistas of Oklahoma, where much of the film takes place, and quite-good footage of the Christian rock band in concert.

The screenplay is by Alex Cramer, from a story by Jon Erwin, Cramer and Brent McCorkle.

“I Can Only Imagine” hits many inspiring notes, just as the song does.

“I Can Only Imagine,” MPAA rated PG (Parental Guidance Suggested Some material may not be suitable for children. Parents urged to give “parental guidance.” May contain some material parents might not like for their young children.); Genre: Drama, Family; Run Time: 1 hr., 50 min.; Distributed by Lionsgate.

Credit Readers Anonymous: In an early scene in “I Can Only Imagine,” Bart as a boy rides his bicycle past a movie theater with the titles of “Jaws 3-D” and “Goonies” on the marquee. Dennis Quaid played the lead in “Jaws 3-D” (1983).

Box Office, March 23: The “Pacific Rim: Uprising” sequel opened at No. 1, with $28 million, upending the five-weeks-straight No. 1 run of “Black Panther,” which crept down one slot to No. 2, with $16.6 million, to become the highest-crossing Marvel Comics Universe movie ever, with $630.9 million, six weeks, as the breakout hit, “I Can Only Imagine,” strongly at No. 3 with $13.8 million, $38.3 million, two weeks, “Sherlock Gnomes” opened at No. 4, with a disappointing $10.6 million, one week, and “Tomb Raider” dropped three places to No. 5 with $10.4 million, $41.7 million, two weeks. 6. “A Wrinkle In Time” folded two more places, $8 million, $73.8 million, three weeks. 7, “Love, Simon” dropped two spots, $7.8 million, $23.6 million, two weeks. 8. “Paul, Apostle Of Christ,” $5 million, one week. 9. “Game Night” moved down three more spaces, $4.1 million, $60.8 million, five weeks. 10. “Midnight Sun,” $4.1 million, one week. 30. “Getting Grace,” directed by and starring Lehigh Valley native Daniel Roebuck, $107,676 in limited national release on only 60 screens, one week, for a per-screen average of $1,795. That compares impressively to, for example, “Midnight Sun,” which opened in wide release at No. 10 with a per-screen average of $1,896 on 2,173 screens.

Unreel, March 30:

“Ready Player One,” PG-13: Steven Spielberg directs Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, and Lena Waithe in the Science-Fiction film. The creator of a virtual reality world called Oasis plants clues for the winner to find his fortune.

“God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness,” PG: Michael Mason directs David A.R. White, John Corbett, Shane Harper, and Ted McGinley in the Drama. A pastor copes with the the destruction of a church after it burns to the ground.

Three Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes