Review: ‘The Calling’

Painfully sincere yet hopelessly amateurish religious-themed drama that plays like the work of a born-again Ed Wood. Vidshot road pic looks ghastly in 35mm transfer. Pic doesn't stand a prayer in theatrical release, and will be hard-pressed to compete with similar but glossier Christian-skewing product in homevid market.

Only the most forgiving believers will suffer through “The Calling,” a painfully sincere yet hopelessly amateurish religious-themed drama that plays like the work of a born-again Ed Wood. Filmed on a reported $160,000 budget in the Chicago area with a cast of mostly non-pros, vidshot road pic looks ghastly in 35mm transfer: Muddy images, washed-out colors and blurred focus make some scenes painful to watch. Pic doesn’t stand a prayer in theatrical release, and will be hard-pressed to compete with similar but glossier Christian-skewing product in homevid market.

Pastor William Jennings (Herbert Porter) heals the sick and comforts the afflicted while hitchhiking cross-country. His extraordinary deeds generate massive media attention — which, in an indie this budget-strapped, doesn’t look terribly massive at all– while enraging a smug radio evangelist (Tom Grant) who insists Jennings is a false prophet. Writer-director Michael C. Brown raises some intelligent questions about the inability (or unwillingness) of secular media to comprehend divine intervention. But flaccid pacing, flat writing and ragtag production values blunt his points. Although Porter evidences charisma and screen presence as Jennings, other performances range from barely adequate to laughably overstated.

The Calling

Production

A Testimony Pictures release. Produced by Paula Cantu. Executive producers, Michael Brown, Arja Brown. Associate producer, Laura Knoerr. Directed, written, edited by Michael C. Brown.

Crew

Camera (color), Brown; music, Robert L. Solberg; casting, Kelly Stall. Reviewed at AMC Studio 30, Houston, Oct. 19, 2003. MPAA Rating: PG. Running time: 117 MIN.

With

Herbert Porter, David Hudson, Tom Grant, Yvonna Lynn, Shebeta Carter, Candy Campbell, Jasmin Cardenas, David Hunter, AnnieScott Rogers, Maggie Nolan.
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