A new film released this weekend could oust Black Panther from the top spot at the box office. I Can Only Imagine is not that film. The movie tells the personal story of how the song I Can only Imagine came to be. The movie stars Dennis Quaid as the abusive father of a kid just trying to win somebody’s, anybody’s approval. Cloris Leachman makes a couple appearances as a supportive grandma, aka: Me-maw.
Bart Millard was abandoned by his mom, left to deal with an abusive alcoholic father, and suffered an injury that ended his high school football dreams. So he discovers music thanks to a wise and encouraging teacher, leaves home, hooks up with a band, perfects his nascent craft and ends up with a smash single.
It would all seem over the top and simplistically Hollywood if it weren’t true. Unfortunately, this tale is told rather simplistically.
If you’re looking for something besides a church sermon to tell you how good god is, this is for you. But for anyone who is looking for good, semi-challenging fare, everything from Quaid’s portrayal of an angry dad to Bart’s move from rookie high school singer to super star is told in a very two-dimensional way. Imagine checks a lot of boxes: tough childhood? Check.
Mommy issues? Check!
Daddy issues? Check check.
Crisis of faith? Check.
Get the girl? Check.
Lose the girl? Check.
Blow your big break? Check!
Redemption through faith? Check.
Obviously perseverance through adversity is hardly a new theme. But this film does nothing to advance the genre. It is the telling of a story of how a popular song came to be. Fans of Mercy Me and the song will likely enjoy the film, but if they’re big fans they will likely know all the plot points already.
As a story, it’s nice. As a movie, it’s one hour and 50 minutes.
You Gotta Have Faith
The movie makes a point, almost to distraction, that you don’t need to be of any particular faith to embrace the song. Perhaps not, but it’ll help.
We haven’t seen the distribution schedule for I Can Only Imagine, but we imagine it won’t be long until it’s available on demand or DVD. Seeing this on a big screen won’t add anything too the viewing experience, but will subtract from your wallet. $7.99 for on demand for the entire family < $12 per movie ticket.
The Critic’s Cocktail Recommendation
Church wine. But unlike at church, don’t wait until the end to imbibe and have more than a sip.