As far as Christian movies go, this one is probably one of the more interesting ones especially in terms of reactions to this movie as well as the movie’s competition when it was released to theaters on Valentine’s Day weekend in 2015. When it was released, the movie was billed as the “anti-Fifty Shades of Grey.” And ironically, it was released against Fifty Shades of Grey. And in terms of rocket science, guess which romantic chick movie won out in the end? You guessed it. They preferred the romantic movie that involves a girl getting whipped and beaten by a good-looking billionaire sociopath over a well-meaning ex-bad boy sociopath trying to reintroduce outdated dating values in the creepiest of ways.
And as usual, critics trashed this movie like they do all Christian movies. And right now, this movie has a 20 percent critic approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes in contrast to 25 percent for Fifty Shades. But here’s where I found something interesting. In terms of the audience approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, Fifty Shades has a 41 percent audience approval rating while this movie has a whopping 86 percent audience approval rating which as far as I know is probably the highest audience approval rating for a Christian movie. In fact, people who have seen the movie have gone after the critics whenever they saw a negative review of the movie.
But perhaps the most outspoken critic against this movie is of course Brad Jones, the Cinema Snob. In his initial hour-long rant on the movie on Midnight Screenings, he famously said that the movie was “insufferable to sit through.” And I liked the quote so much that I put it on my thumbnail. I mean it doesn’t always have to be positive reviews on the movie poster. It’s about time someone posted a negative review.
So anyway, it’s time to get on with the review of the movie which can only be known as… Old Fashioned.
Anyway, we’re introduced to the “hero” of this movie, Clay Walsh (played by the film’s writer/producer/director Rik Swartzwelder) who is a former frat boy who spent his college years sleeping around with random women and as an added bonus filmed the Pure Flix version of Girls Gone Wild. Of course, I don’t envision Joe Francis, the real creator of Girls Gone Wild becoming a born-again Christian. However, to get a little ahead of myself and the movie, he was also in a relationship with a girl whom he cheated on with her best friend to which the girl responds by cheating on him with another guy which results in her getting pregnant and marrying the other guy. And that drives Clay to the Bible and thus, he gives up the whole Girls Gone Wild thing and decides instead to work in an antique store where he spends his time restoring antique furniture and peddling his theories on dating and relationships. In fact, the whole point of this movie is to reintroduce old-fashioned dating rituals that are about a hundred years out of date into a dating culture that practically revolves around sex. Hence the movie’s tagline: “Chivalry makes a comeback.” Sadly, this movie is fiction. Sorry, folks. Chivalry’s still dead.
At the same time, we are also introduced to Amber (played by Elizabeth Ann Roberts) a free-spirited woman who’s running from a string of abusive relationships (not to mention one failed marriage) in which her last ex broke her hand because he didn’t like her nail polish (she still has a cast on her arm from that incident when we meet her). She eventually ends up in Clay’s hometown of Palookaville, Ohio and decides to move into the upstairs apartment above Clay’s antique shop which is called (appropriately) Old Fashioned.
And here’s where the movie starts getting weird. When Clay gives Amber the key to the upstairs apartment, he refuses to go in the apartment with her to show her around. And wait till you hear the reason why he won’t go in the apartment with her. He refuses to go in because he made a little vow not to be alone in a room with a woman he is not married to which I do admit is something I’ve never heard of before. And somehow, I don’t think that his actions here are connected to the old Victorian courtship rituals. To be honest, it sounds like something a serial killer would probably say. And get used to Clay’s mentality by the way, because he’s like this for a majority of the movie.
Clay also has two friends: One is David, who is the token black guy who is living in sin with his white girlfriend and they have a kid together; and the other one is Brad (not Brad Jones) who is an old friend from Clay’s Girls Gone Wild days and is a well-known nationally syndicated radio shock jock named “Lucky Chucky.” And you know what else he is? He’s easily my favorite character in the movie. It’s like I said in the God’s Not Dead 2 review, the “villains” in these movies are usually the best cast characters. But you can tell that Brad is not too thrilled that Clay is now a Christian and spouts his beliefs every chance he gets. In the meantime, they’re both two sides of the same coin whereas Lucky Chucky and Past Clay represent today’s dating culture and Current Clay is basically the old-school Christian prude.
And at various points throughout the movie you get to hear the shock jock’s show which of course contain the usual messages like “Man, women are stupid” (actual movie quote by the way) and so on and so forth which indicates to me that Rik did not even listen to a shock jock show before doing this movie. Granted it’s a religious movie so they probably had to keep the shock jock stuff toned down but still. Of course, the phone call between Amber and Lucky Chucky is hilarious. “Men like you...” “Yes, men like me! Raar! Raar! Raar! How much do you weigh, sweetheart? How much?” Taking a dig at a woman’s weight? Keep it classy, Pure Flix.
Amber eventually calls Clay up because her stove won’t light up or something like that. But here’s the thing: Clay makes Amber wait outside the apartment and he gives her a blanket because it’s kind of chilly out and she’s wearing a sexy tank top and overalls. And as he’s fixing the stove, he lets Amber in on his theories about today’s dating culture where he says that dating is basically little more than for superficial reasons that usually leads to sex before the “getting to know you” phase. And in some ways, he’s right.
And when Clay is not busy trying to resist Amber, he spends time with his elderly aunt who is played by a woman who looks like she should be playing Aunt May in a Spider-Man movie. And about that, I know, Hot MILF Aunt May will take some getting used to. Nothing against Marisa Tomei but she’s way too young to be playing Aunt May. And of course, they talk about religious stuff and she even pretends to play dead at various points on the movie. And like Peter Parker in Spider-Man, Clay’s aunt acts like Clay’s moral compass.
After perhaps the most awkward and creepiest shopping scene I've ever seen which is buoyed by Clay shooting hoops with David the black guy and talking about chicks, he invites Clay and Amber to go to a birthday party for both him and his girlfriend as an attempt to get them together. Instead the birthday party turns out to be an engagement party as David gives his girlfriend an engagement ring saying that he’s gonna make an honest woman out of her. Again, awkward.
Clay is still reluctant to date Amber so basically the only way that she can talk to Clay is to start deliberately breaking all her shit so she can continue talking to Clay, and all with a creepy psychotic smile on her face. She starts with her garbage disposal and then she drills holes into her fridge which is how Clay learns about her past which is symbolized by a jar that she keeps on top of her fridge which she fills with money (for fuel for her car) so whenever the jar is full and something bad happens (like another abusive boyfriend she has to run from) she can just up and leave as far as the money will take her.
Here’s something that I should probably address. Throughout the course of the movie, most notably during the conversations between Clay and Amber, there is a whole lot of b-roll footage of the rural Ohio landscape that Rik basically relies on far too much and it is more likely used as padding to get the movie to a 115-minute running time. I mean without it, the movie could easily be a 90-minute movie. Again, one of the biggest problems that can hurt a movie easily is when a director uses B-roll in place of telling a story. But don’t feel too bad, Rik. Star Trek: The Motion Picture had that same problem and that was a big-budget movie directed by a legendary Oscar-winning director.
So finally, it takes Amber taking her door off the hinges that Clay finally breaks down and asks her out. And they wind up going to church where they get this book called Red, Yellow, Green and it is a book that gives couples questions to ask each other to test their compatibility. And their first date, Clay asks Amber about whether she has experience with children and when she can’t answer that, he does what any sane man would do: He takes her to David’s house and has her cut up pears to feed to David’s kid. Dead serious! Now this was the scene that Brad had the most issues with. And I do admit that it is a pretty creepy scene especially since I’ve never heard about training people to cut up baby food as a valid courtship ritual. However, the scene is creepy in a comedic horror sort of way.
So their courtship continues with a trip to the hardware store to pick up axes as though they’re planning to do the Pure Flix version of Natural Born Killers; review Sleepless in Seattle (a movie that I could probably care less about and it’s another movie where the nice guy loses in the end) and they even go to a church sermon together. How romantic. Also, while they are having dinner with Clay’s aunt, Clay tells Amber why he is the way he is and since I’ve already mentioned that earlier in the review no need to repeat it here but I will mention Clay’s cheesy explanation as to why he turned to the Bible. “I read it so much that I realized I couldn’t make fun of it anymore. Other people could. I couldn’t.” Including us Internet reviewers, Clay? God, I do hope they keep making more of these movies because these movies are a comedy gold mine. There’s gold in them thar Pure Flix movies.
So anyway, Clay is invited to David’s bachelor party and of course it’s another weird scene of Clay being a self-righteous asshole because where there’s a bachelor party there’s always a stripper (Rated PG-13!) And of course, this was orchestrated by Brad the shock jock. But Clay, being the party pooper that he is, screws the stripper out of about 200 dollars’ worth of potential tips and again spouts his beliefs in which one line could easily sum up this movie’s attitude toward society and of course that line is “When did treating women with respect become the joke?” To which the shock jock, who pretty much represents the world responds with “You want to know who the joke is?”
Shortly after that, Clay is confronted by the stripper and her bodyguard to which the stripper says “You think you’re better than me, don’t you?” And that is followed by a montage of Amber clearing off her bulletin board because she is convinced that Clay is the one while at the same time, Clay is playing Angry Basketball where he’s slamming the ball down on the ground repeatedly because he can’t take the fact that his moral values are repeatedly shamed and humiliated.
And on their next date, they drive out to the middle of nowhere and here is where the third act breakup begins where Clay asks Amber how many sex partners she’s had. And of course, Amber is like, “Can’t you just be normal? Why can’t we have a normal date?” To which Clay replies “You mean a normal date like when two people jump into bed and then try to get to know each other afterward?” Yes, Clay. She means exactly that. She does answer that she’s been with five guys and like I mentioned before all of them ended badly and included a failed marriage right out of high school. Not to mention the fact that she started her career in a movie called Black Knight, one of Martin Lawrence's shitty movies.
As far as that goes, I have mentioned that a woman’s history is important, but only to a man that has had fewer partners than she has. However, Clay is a reformed womanizer that has very likely slept with dozens of women (most of which was likely alcohol-fueled) so therefore Clay has no excuse to reject Amber on her history alone. Now if Clay were written as a 40-year-old virgin that would be one thing but then again if Clay were written as a 40-year-old virgin, there wouldn’t be a movie because it would’ve ended the same way Last American Virgin did with him not getting the girl in the end. And as far as the whole 40-year-old virgin thing goes, I’m glad they didn’t go that route because I’ve seen it done so much better ten years ago.
So they break up and Amber ends up watching Clay’s Girls Gone Wild DVD where she starts crying. Throughout the movie, they reference the Girls Gone Wild thing a lot where it kind of looks more dark and ominous that what you saw in the advertisements for the real Girls Gone Wild which is further proof that Rik did not even see a commercial for Girls Gone Wild. Instead, you see the girls look like they’re crying while they’re flashing their boobage.
But then Amber gets over it and then she hits the bar where she loads up on alcohol and her woman senses start tingling for Brad the shock jock. While at the same time, Clay apparently steals a page from Fifty Shades of Grey as he storms across town looking for Amber who is on her way to Brad’s hotel room for an obvious drunken one night stand or as this movie calls it, a normal date.
At the same time, Clay’s ex-girlfriend (who’s in town for David’s wedding and is also on the outs with her husband) arrives at Clay’s house and it looks as though they’re going to hook up because at this point we see him more intimate with this woman more than we’ve seen him intimate with Amber. In short, this is the “temptation scene.”
However, Amber’s Christian programming kicks in and she doesn’t go through with sleeping with Brad and we find out that Clay allowed his ex to stay in the house while he slept in the truck. And of course, there’s still some tension between Clay and Amber (who sees the ex leave as she is going to see Clay) where she finally agrees to stay in town and uses her gas money jar to enroll in college. Meanwhile, Clay is lectured by Aunt May that he needs to lighten up and stop using his faith like a wall to keep people out (probably because Mexico won’t pay for it) and to pursue Amber.
And the movie ends with Amber receiving a romantic card from Clay and gets driven around by a chauffeur (another one of Clay’s friends) where she goes to get a nice dress, get her nails done, get her hair done and get dropped off at the grocery store where they had their awkward interaction earlier in the film. She enters the grocery store which is lit up by a lot of candles. Usually a room full of lighted candles can mean two things: It’s either gonna lead to a clichéd 90’s-style sex scene or she’s entering the Temple of Doom. And speaking of Indiana Jones, she finds Clay in the baby food aisle wearing a fedora as though he’s trying to be Bogie which makes sense because there’s a poster of Casablanca in the movie. Why does the baby food aisle have any significance? Remember on their first date he made her cut up baby food? So doesn’t it make sense that he proposes to her in the baby food aisle? If not, that’s okay. This movie’s completely unrealistic anyways, especially since it ends with a kiss on the cheek instead of a full-on makeout scene.
And here endth one of the weirdest, strangest, creepiest yet strangely enjoyable movies I’ve ever had the pleasure of reviewing. Performance-wise, Rik Swartzwelder as Clay was probably the weakest link in the movie for me. His character is not really all that likable; he didn’t have a lot of chemistry with the main girl and the fact that he looks like a 45-year-old Justin Bieber is no… no, no, no, no! You don’t model your character after the man who single-handedly destroyed the music genre! The rest of the acting was solid. Once again, the shock jock was my favorite character in the movie because he’s the most realistic character in the movie. Elizabeth Ann Roberts is really good (even in the scenes where she is being creepy where she’s breaking all her shit just to get Clay to go out with her) and she’s very pretty in a type of “bring her home to mom” kind of way and in a normal romantic comedy she would be fine. She just feels out of place here.
As far as the movie goes, the movie can by no means be compared to Fifty Shades of Grey. It’s way better than that movie. Hell, it’s even better than any Nick Sparks movie. If there’s any movie I can compare it to, I would probably compare it to a movie I saw a while ago called Where the Heart Is which is about Natalie Portman as a pregnant teen who lives in Wal-Mart. That one really isn’t that bad of a movie in terms of melodramatic movies go. Overall, is the movie as bad as Brad makes it out to be? Not really. In fact, I found the movie to be harmless in contrast to say, God’s Not Dead. Given time, this could wind up being a “so bad, it’s good” movie. I definitely would recommend this for a bad movie night. So, in hindsight to other critics, I’m actually being fair to this movie, probably more than it deserves.
Also, I so can’t wait for Jesus, Bro! next year where Brad plays a spoof of Clay Walsh. If you like reviews of Christian movies, you need to check that out when it comes out next year.
And I know I’m probably gonna get some hate for reviewing this movie. Knock yourselves out.