Imagine a megachurch, with thousands of members, hosting a debate on the existence of God between a prominent pastor and a prominent atheist. Unfortunately, a tragedy happens immediately after the debate: the atheist is accidently shot, the pastor has to find a way to continue the building of his new mega church and, in the process, decides that the sacrificial lamb, much like the character of Isaac in the Bible, must be sacrificed. That sacrificial lamb, a former follower of the Grateful Dead and new convert to Christianity, has to save his life and in the salvation of his own life, he can hopefully save his newfound faith in God. Unfortunately, those he now associates with, his new wife, friends, and others, are so into religion and the church they can’t see the truth when it comes to the critique of their pastor, church, or faith. Consequently, the Dead Head will need an act of God to get him out of the mess he is in.
Salvation Boulevard has an all-star ensemble cast including Pierce Brosnan as mega pastor Reverend Dan Day, Greg Kinnear as newly converted Dead Head Carl Vanderveer, and Jennifer Connelly as his wife and church devotee Gwen. This movie, while far from perfect, offers some thought-provoking insight into the world of religion and the way religion often misrepresents God and those dedicated to following Him through their involvement in church. The film, while well acted, comes up somewhat short on direction and story. There is so much more that could be said and so many ways the story could have been better developed. That doesn’t take away from some of the entertainment value but it does reduce Salvation Boulevard from being a very good movie to being just an interesting and thought-provoking movie.
We see the opening scene that looks like it could have come out of any number of American Mega Churches, churches where attendance is in the thousands. While not disrespectful, we see a debate between two Day scholars and a prominent atheist played by Ed Harris. After the debate the two, along with a parishioner, meet to discuss a possible new book. The atheist is accidently shot and a massive cover-up takes place. The pastor and some of his congregation, believing the atheist to have died, attempt to set up the innocent bystander and new convert, Vanderveer. What transpires next is a comedic romp where Carl attempts to prove his innocence while at the same time having his faith challenged by the actions he observes.
While this particular DVD has a very good cast, none of the characters are as well defined or developed as Carl Vanderveer. We actually see some of his conflicts and struggles. While the other characters including Pierce Brosnan do a good job, we just see little character development in them. It is one of the things that distracts from this particular film.
I suspect there will be many people of faith who have issues with this movie. That is sad. The movie does not attack the concepts of faith; in fact, it affirms them, especially so if you see in the very end that it is God who sets the captives and prisoners free from the chains that bind them. The issue isn’t God; it is those who speak on behalf of God while having their own self-interest in mind. In that regard, I found Salvation Boulevard exceptional.
There was some concern as to the intent of the filmmakers, but much like Leap of Faith, an older film with Steve Martin, Salvation Boulevard recognizes the ability and reality of God and his superiority over many of His followers. The concepts of selfishness, deceit, and lies among the Christians in this movie are clearly presented, but depending on what book of the Bible you are reading, you will also see the same types of characteristics being presented. In fact, the Bible clearly warns its followers to keep their eyes on Jesus. While there are good people that often fall into doing wrong things, that doesn’t negate the power of God or the ability of others to forgive. There is a danger in placing one’s faith in humanity; in so doing, we have (or ultimately will have) failed.
I was disappointed that the DVD has no special features, and there is really nothing exceptional about this film to where I could encourage one to purchase it. I could, however, recommend one watch it via a cheap rental or queue on their streaming programming. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value, just not enough to justify a purchase of the product.