"War Room" is yet another film made to cash in on the recent Christian movie boom and like its contemporaries, it puts the message first and trivial matters such as acting, directing, writing, editing, and production a distant second. What makes "War Room" perhaps even worse than its proselytizing brethren is while they tend to share the same overall message (Christians RIGHT, everyone else WRONG), the underlying message in "War Room" is far more disturbing.
"War Room" is the story of Tony (T.C. Stallings, who with his razor sharp features and V-shaped brow is a bit too scary to pass as an everyman), his wife Elizabeth (Priscilla Shirer), and their daughter, Danielle. Elizabeth and her husband argue constantly and he even ponders cheating on her. Things change for Elizabeth when she agrees to sell the house of Miss Clara (Karen Abercrombie). Miss Clara soon senses the turmoil in Elizabeth's home life and tells her that her marital problems will be magically fixed if she hides in a closet and simply prays for them to get better. Yes, really.
The acting is terrible but considering that the leads are motivational speakers and the director gives himself a prominent role it's no surprise. The only person who even tries is Karen Abercrombie but she plays the sassy black grandma shtick to such extremes that even Tyler Perry would tell her to tone it down. She's bossy, pushy, and shouts "Praise Jesus" constantly when she's not speaking in overwrought war analogies. That being said, at least the scenes with her had some life to them.
The writing is just awful. It's full of clunky exposition and treats its female lead with contempt at times, making constant jokes about her bad breath and smelly feet. You can tell men wrote this as the one scene featuring all women has them prattle on about being subservient to their husbands and how it's so "hard" to be a woman. After the first hour, Jesus is mentioned so much that you could turn it into a drinking game.
Another way the writing fails is that Tony is so mean to Elizabeth that their marriage really seems beyond saving. He's verbally abusive, ignores their daughter, lords his superiority over his wife and ogles other women. If that weren't bad enough, he turns out to be a thief and a drug dealer and says in one scene that he wouldn't give his wife CPR if her life were in danger! I'm supposed to want these people together?
And even if divorce is unthinkable (which in this universe, it seems to be) why is marriage counseling never mentioned? Do they not know that some churches actually offer that? They could go to a counselor in their church, save their marriage (Tony's beyond saving but just go with it) AND find Jesus along the way! They can even keep the prayer closet. It's pretty bad when I can think of a way to solve the central conflict of the movie and keep the religious themes intact better than these jokers did.
This movie, like others of the genre, operates in an alternate reality where people convert instantly. Miss Clara preaches to a mugger and instead of getting gutted like a fish like she would be in real life, the mugger slinks away. Elizabeth decides to fight for her marriage by running around the house like a crazy person and shouting at Satan in the movie's most unintentionally funny scene. Elizabeth's incessant praying somehow gives her husband food poisoning while on a date with another woman and he just gives up and leaves. The movie never considers the fact that he could still go have sex with the woman and Tony is so nasty by this point it's very plausible he would.
After Tony and Elizabeth magically reconcile, the movie decides to introduce the drug dealing subplot which is laughably and clumsily handled. Tony's boss sees that his sales numbers don't add up which would be enough for a police investigation but they only fire him and send him on his way. Then he admits to selling drugs on the side but his boss doesn't arrest him because he was really, really sorry. That must be a tremendous comfort to all the people who overdosed on the drugs he sold.
The movie ends with a jump-rope competition that is just unnecessary padding (keep an eye out for the little girl in the audience who CONSTANTLY stares at the camera) before launching into full-on propaganda mode in the last fifteen minutes. It starts with Miss Clara telling Elizabeth to tell other troubled wives to go hide in their closets, segues to her house being sold to a minister who can somehow divine that the closet was used for praying, and finally resorts to outright filibustering. This is conveyed through a prayer montage that works its way up through the nation's schools (separation of church and state is merely a suggestion in this world) to those Godless heathens in Washington. This coda pretty much wrecks what little verisimilitude the movie has (which isn't much).
"War Room" is a vile, preachy, and pretentious film with twisted morals masquerading as wholesome, Christian entertainment. While I can sympathize with not wanting to divorce, there must be some middle ground between divorcing after six months and staying with an abusive and cruel spouse until one of you dies. I can also recognize that there are marriages where sometimes, divorce is sadly the answer.
It's a pity that this movie doesn't seem to think so. Following this movie's advice for marital troubles is not just patronizing and irresponsible, but potentially dangerous. Avoid at all costs.
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