Believe (2016) movie review

Believe might be earnest to a fault, but it’s hard to totally knock a movie so eager to please.

With his business suffering and his workers threatening to strike, Matthew Peyton (Ryan O’Quinn) is at a financial crossroads. Worse, he’s getting a ton of flak for implying he won’t be able to host the annual Christmas pageant.

The townsfolk of Grundy have long forgotten ‘the reason for the season’ as they see the pageant more as a huge moneymaker for local vendors. Their dismissive attitude towards Matthew’s plight only serves to fuel his frustration. And worst, Matthew becomes resentful of the helpful advice from his best friend, Nancy (Shawnee Smith, Saw VI).

But after encountering Sharon (Danielle Nicolet, The Flash) and son, CJ (Issac Ryan Brown), Matthew begins to consider a greater purpose for his life. Sharon and CJ might not have heat, beds or their own bathroom, but they’ve got each other and a never failing belief that things will get better.

O’Quinn is a regular bit player in film and TV with his roles frequently identified by status like Russian prisoner, World Cup announcer or Preppy Guy. While he might not be headlining 2018 blockbusters, O’Quinn does a solid job in the spotlight making Matthew a likeable and redeemable character.

Believe - Shawnee Smith, Ryan O'Quinn, Danielle Nicolet and Issac Ryan Brown

Brown amps up the precociousness and youthful exuberance to their breaking point for much of the movie. He plays CJ a little too ‘on’ as if he’s on a steady diet of Red Bulls and Frosted Flakes. CJ straddles the delicate line of being cute and annoyingly obnoxious. Nicolet and Smith provide necessary and steadying presences for the film while Kevin Sizemore and David DeLuise make for convincing, if not aggressively obvious bad guys.

Director/Writer Billy Dickson makes a respectable feature film debut. Dickson previously directed episodes of Ally McBeal, Majors & Minors and One Tree Hill in addition to his longtime cinematography career. While some plot developments are telegraphed early on, Dickson does work in some unexpected twists along the way. The film had a $3.5 million budget, but Dickson does a credible job of not making it look like it was done on the cheap.

Dickson’s cinematography background proves invaluable in capturing the depressed atmosphere of small town U.S.A. where hope fades a little more with each factory closure. Dickson’s script has an overly simplistic view of faith and hope. It suggests faith is a matter of believing really, really hard and good things will happen.

Believe - Ryan O'Quinn

Believe doesn’t shy away from mentioning Jesus Christ and Sharon dutifully reads her Bible, but Dickson doesn’t fully commit to a full-fledged Christian movie. That starts to become an issue as the film progresses as Believe plays out like an inspirational movie without crediting the inspiration. And the bad guys’ overly complicated is almost too sloppy and outright desperate in the final act to be taking seriously.

Despite those narrative stumbles, Believe is enjoyable. For audiences willing to shelve their cynicism even temporarily, Believe is worthy of a good faith viewing.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10

Photo Credit: Power of 3

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