So, the sequel to God's Not Dead actually brings back a lot of characters from the last movie. Senate David and Rob, Amy, who's just found out her cancer has been terminated, The Newsboys band, and Martin, who has turned to Christian thanks to the influences of his friend Josh Wheaton, who isn't back this time. The seed of the movie is Brooke, a girl who recently lost her brother in a tragic car accident, and she feels like she wanted at least a few more minutes with him before he left. Not only that, but his parents don't see it quite as tragic and resort to getting rid of all his belongings. Either there's some religion they're devoted to because of this, or Brooke and her brother were adopted. Or both. Anyway, Brooke's history teacher Grace Wesley, played by Melissa Joan Hart (who amazingly, voiced Becky Detweiler in Recess: School's Out so long ago) notices her sadness and they start to take a mild liking to each other. Then one day in class when Grace talks about the significance of peaceful protest, Brooke asks if its sort of like what Jesus said about loving your enemies. Grace replies "Yes," with one of his quotes. The next thing she realizes, the school board doesn't see kindly to mentioning Jesus and has accused her of preaching and demoting other religions. It's like the sex ed crisis: Some parents find the idea fine, but a growing majority see it as a betrayal. And Grace is refusing the easy way out. And now, with the help of a first-time lawyer who isn't even a Christian, they have to somehow prove Grace's innocence.
I don't know how to explain it, but I was more excited for this movie than the last. I think the reason is that I want to someday be an English teacher and hand out some of the books I've reviewed for you guys, though some of them have questionable language and material. The reason I want to assign them one day is the same reason I review books every week for you guys. Plus, I was never not on Grace's side, not just because the opposing side is the definition of evil and she's anything but but because I didn't see it as anything offensive at all. And I have to say that in the court hearing, both sides present incredible speeches, the opposer's quite infuriating and fist-clenching. The movie then goes for an approach that's shown in the trailer which I thought seemed a little early, but then when I saw how much more it was going to go, I was enthralled, also because the big giveaway wasn't really in the trailer and its long running time didn't feel filler.
One thing I noticed thirty minutes into the movie was it was far less cluttered than the first film, this time having character stories that tie into each other much better and this time I felt there was no story that could've been picked out. I was certainly surprised when Martin returned to pick us back up from when he texted his father three words that went against his entire family. I'm not sure what religion they are or if they are devout Atheists, but thankfully the movie doesn't exactly tell you. The court sessions also not only give you a feel of a real court hearing, phrases and words being played out completely comprehensibly, but the way each team skyrockets and plummets makes you really understand the fate of the hearing and the controversy surrounding the debate, not to mention the turn I didn't expect and loved loved loved.
This movie also doesn't feel one-sided, doesn't feel like a Christian propaganda flick that would get millions of dislikes to anyone not a devout Christian. And yes, while it may antagonize atheists, but not entirely and as someone who's been victim to rules, I could see the school board that put Wesley in Court as a ton of Umbridge's and by-the-book robots, especially a teacher that bluntly tires to stop a protest group outside the school even though the group wasn't doing anything to her, her basically antagonizing the people standing up for Grace. The movie also no longer really makes Senate David and Rob look overly lovey-dovey, and having Grace's lawyer as not a believer adds a healthy spice to the film, showing that people outside the Pure Flix Entertainment Group base can be heroes too. It rises up when the idea of just apologizing is a good idea to him, imploring the question of what you would do if you were Grace's lawyer and if you cared more about the easy way or love of the lord. It then bakes up to the perfect peak near the end when the lawyer admits he learned something from Grace not by her religion but by her commitment.
Now, I'm sorry to say the movie is not quite the masterpiece I'm making it out to be, even though I really want to watch it again. Brooke's parents who I mentioned earlier really REALLY didn't seem human. The movie doesn't explore why they try to remove all of their late son's stuff and I've seriously never heard of a religion or atheist that does this, and I wish there was some other, more plausible reason for their evilness. There was also this one statement in the trailer about there never being any prayers in life anymore and how uncaring the world has become of Jesus the saviour. I enjoyed it when the first movie talked about this and I talked about it in my review, and was excited to see what other things it had to say but didn't touch on. But these were extremely minor. I was ready to give this an A- or A, but then when the credits rolled down, it asks you to text "God's Not Dead" to all of your followers. Whoa, red flag going up there, Pure Flix. There are people besides theists who are going to see your film, that was a little unnecessary and a little unintentionally antagonizing. I get it though. Just...next time, let the audience decide on their own terms. If I forgive this minor plot point, I'll bump up my grade for my end of the year best list though. God's Not Dead 2 is less cluttered, less propagandic, and more exhilarating and gratifying than its predecessor, and you don't have to believe in God to enjoy it!