Review By Susan Kamyab
Despite the title, I actually wanted to like I’m in Love with a Church Girl. I am always more intrigued when a script is based on the writer’s personal experience. Unfortunately, the terrible acting and painfully cheesy dialogue over powers the dominant meaning behind this story.
Miles Montego (Ja Rule) is a retired high level drug trafficker who has turned a new leaf, and is now working in a profession that is legal. But for some reason, the DEA does not seem to believe Miles has changed; and has decided to keep a close eye on him. To make matters worse, Miles is still close to his group of friends/former partners in crime that have not left the dangerous business. While trying to stay on the right side of the law, Miles meets Vanessa Leon (Adrienne Bailon). Adrienne is different from all the girls he has dated. He is drawn to her beauty and her faith. Of course, this relationship is not an easy one. As Miles is torn between his past life and the life he wants, Vanessa struggles with spending a life with someone who does not share her faith in God.
Writer and producer, Galley Molina, wrote the script while he was serving time in prison. At first, it was suppose to be a book. Eventually, the story turned into a film that Molina financed himself so he could have more creative control. He even rejected an offer from a major studio, because they wanted to embellish on his drug dealing days. Sadly, I think that might have made for a more engaging story. I get that he wanted to focus on the journey he had to redemption. But given the situation, the audience would have appreciated seeing the gritty details that Miles had clearly been dealing with before “surrendering himself to God”.
The film is rated PG and geared toward a more faith-based audience. So, I can see how they would want to keep things as clean as possible. But if I’m going to see a film about second chances, I want to see what actions you did before that needed redemption. The entire film only referenced Miles’ dark past. We never saw any drugs, let alone hear about what specifically they were dealing. Since they only alluded to the crimes, the DEA seemed even more random when they would appear on screen. I kept feeling bad for Miles. Through out the film he is a sweet, caring guy. Then all the sudden bad things happen to the people in his life and he is praying that he be punished for his sins instead of them. I missed the yearning for redemption I would usually want for the protagonist.
Stephen Baldwin plays Jason McDaniels, a DEA in charge of the case on Miles. Molina chose Baldwin and Bailon for the film because of their ”strong Christian backgrounds and for their talents.” I do not know exactly where that talent went when Baldwin was shooting this film. He might as well have been asleep in each of his scenes. There was no effort in any of his line delivery. Yes he was given corny, cliché dialogue, but he just acted like he did not want to be there. I’m going to avoid talking about the rest of the obviously first time actors, that includes “dear in the head lights” Mr. Loen, and skip straight to the leads. Ja Rule was a breath of fresh air compared to the rest of his inexperienced cast. He did the best he could with what he was given, and something tells me he could have handled a more intense script. Adrienne Bailon was her usual bubbly, head bopping self. She is beautiful, and she has a lot of energy which makes her likeable to watch. If the supporting cast put half as much energy into their performance as she did, the film might have been more entertaining.
I’m in Love with a Church Girl has a beautiful message about how God accepts you the way you are, no matter what sins you have done in the past. I just wish we could have seen what all Molina had to overcome before finally letting God into his life. He has a great story to tell. But the movie version of it is so focused on the end result, that we miss all the excitement and the care; which leads to an anti-climactic conclusion.
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