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"Letters To God": Seeking the Christian Market

06/14/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The new film "Letters To God" is advertised as being from one of the producers of "Facing the Giants." If this is true then I wish the makers of "Letter" had learned the "Facing the Giants" lesson. That being you don't need to beat people over the head with religion in order to make your point. "Letters To God" keeps letting the story be interrupted by the sponsor, which in this case is Christianity.

The core story concerns a young boy named Tyler (Tanner Maguire) who has a malignant brain tumor. He is taking chemotherapy which may or may not work. His father is recently deceased and that leaves his mother Maddie (Robin Lively) with the main responsibility of the household. Her oldest son Ben (Michael Bolten) is feeling isolated. He loves Tyler but resents the time spent on him.

Maddie's mother Olivia (Maree Cheatham) moves in to help out. Maddie goes back to work and on good days Tyler goes back to school. He goes because his best friend Sam (Bailee Madison) misses him being there. Tyler writes to God about all these things and gives the letters to his local postman, Brady (Jeffrey SS Johnson).

Brady has problems of his own. He is an alcoholic who has lost custody of his son. Through getting to know Tyler and his family he sees that there is a way to get his life back on track.

"Letters To God" is said to be based on a true story and it is easy to see how one little boy's letters to God could influence people. As shown in the film, Tyler has the personality and the drive to affect change. Sam's grandfather (Ralph Waite) calls him one of God's warriors.

The acting in the film is acceptable. Maguire is especially effective as Tyler. He manages to project fear, serenity and acceptance all in one package. Madison, who was so good in "Brothers," serves as this film's cheerleader. She is bubbly and bouncy and full of good spirits.

Both Lively and Johnson are easy to watch. They don't do anything extra with their roles and with a little effort they could have had more of an impact. Cheatham and Waite play the older, wiser characters in the movie.

The scenes in the film that take part in the church and/or with the pastor are stilted and artificial. And when the messages about prayer are interjected the movie comes to a halt. The makers of "Facing the Giants" and "Fireproof," which are the gold standards for "Christian" movies, knew the plot had to be solid in order to sell the movie. The message is best added when it is done in an almost subliminal way.

The movie is rated PG for its theme of illness.

"Letters To God" is a film that will touch your heart. Who can dismiss the validity of a young boy's faith in the face of an almost insurmountable illness? Still you wish the filmmakers had just trusted the story to deliver the message of faith and hope rather than pack it full of "Christian commercials."

I scored "Letters To God" a handwritten 6 out of 10.

Jackie K. Cooper
www.jackiekcooper.com