Two men on a road trip find themselves bonding just like their Vietnam-veteran dads once did in “Faith of Our Fathers,” a clumsily told story of friendship and wartime remembrance that has a tough time serving up a halfway believable moment, let alone a moving and powerful testimony about the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Amazingly graceless as it veers from broad situational comedy to stiff, po-faced military drama, this latest dubious cinematic sermon from Pure Flix (which also produced the 2014 faith-based hit “God’s Not Dead”) seems likely to appeal strictly to that segment of the audience that would seem to require it least — namely, believers who have trouble telling the difference between art and propaganda, or understanding why the difference matters.
It’s 1997 when a Midwestern churchgoer named John Paul George (Kevin Downes) flies down to Mississippi to meet with Eddie Adams, an old Vietnam War buddy of his late father, Steven. Instead, John Paul finds himself face to face with Eddie’s son, Wayne (David A.R. White), an ornery skeptic who initially refuses to answer his questions about the friendship between their respective dads, but then impulsively drags this visitor along on a road trip to see the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. Over the course of their journey, these two sons will squabble endlessly, get duped by a pair of Australian hitchhikers (one of whom is played by the popular Christian singer Rebecca St. James), wind up in county jail for a brief spell, and repeatedly clash over their very different points of view.
“You’re not a Jesus freak, are ya?” Wayne snarls at John Paul, echoing an early scene of their dads in 1969 Vietnam, where the Bible-toting Steven (Sean McGowan) earned the derisive nickname “Preacher Boy” from the atheist Eddie (Scott Whyte). As directed by Carey Scott (who co-wrote the script with three other scribes, including Downes and White), the entire movie is interspersed with these regular flashbacks (introduced via some of the most eye-rolling scene transitions ever devised in a cutting room), which earned the picture a PG-13 rating for scenes of military violence even as they remain utterly devoid of tension or suspense. Naturally, whether Eddie and Wayne will eventually see the error of their ways and turn to Christ remains the least mysterious question of all in a movie that reduces the outcome of the drama, and the very issue of salvation itself, to a foregone conclusion.
It’s hard to convincingly portray a genuine conversion onscreen, and harder still to achieve a level of profundity that might actually provoke a spiritual epiphany in the viewer. To these God-fearing eyes, “Faith of Our Fathers” accomplishes neither — not even with a solemn Stephen Baldwin on hand to tip the scales in the Lord’s favor in the role of a battle-hardened sergeant who once served his country alongside Eddie and Steven, and who now serves a much higher authority. Rounding out the cast is Candace Cameron Bure (“Full House”) as John Paul’s perky fiancee, who becomes increasingly annoyed (and annoying) as his journey stretches on for much longer than they had anticipated. After 96 minutes of strained comedy, forced pathos and amateurish storytelling en route to a tearjerking finale, the viewer will more than understand how she feels.