Every two years, around the time of the Easter holiday, faith-based blockbuster house Pure Flix has distributed an entry in their God's Not Dead series. This year, audiences awaiting either the legitimate joy or comedic schadenfreude that such a film would bring have God's Not Dead: A Light In Darkness to look forward to. Unfortunately for both sides of the aisle, this third film isn't as comedically villainous or superbly virtuous as the first two films were, which leaves us with a film that could have made a promising break from the pattern the franchise has defined thus far.
After a fire claims his church, Reverend Dave (David A.R. White) finds himself in a difficult spot as the local college that housed his congregation is looking to have the building torn down. With the help of his estranged brother (John Corbett), the good Reverend will fight for his right to continue preaching the good word on campus, while navigating the trying times that test his faith in the process.
The good news about God's Not Dead: A Light In Darkness is that the central conflict doesn't play on the persecution complex that both God's Not Dead and God's Not Dead 2 pushed in spades. As a matter of fact, if this film had tightened up its central conflict between Reverend Dave and his brother, this could have been a much better film. A.R. White and Corbett share some of the film's better moments, as their performances complement each other quite well. Their shared storyline is the silver lining to the entire film, telling the story of two siblings on opposite sides of faith, and the legal battle that brings them together.
Unfortunately, the overwrought dramatics surrounding the debate over whether a house of worship should exist on campus or not overtakes God's Not Dead: A Light In Darkness. Not only is this the inferior storyline in the film's narrative structure, but it kind of re-treads ground that was covered in both preceding entries in the series. This is the greatest failing when it comes to what doesn't work about this God's Not Dead threequel, as it chooses to dedicate more time to what it's done before, and not to the fresh avenue of storytelling it could have made hay with.
What could have been a new, and quite frankly impressive, chapter in this Christian franchise falls back on too many of its previously hewn gimmicks and tropes. Is there a student questioning their faith, as it's attacked in an institution of learning? Yep. Do any of the Newsboys pop up in God's Not Dead: A Light In Darkness? You bet they do. Are there any Conservative celebrity cameos? Do Judge Jeanine Pirro and Dana Loesch count? Is a tried but true B-level TV personality acting as the focal point of said persecution? Hello, Ted McGinley!
All of this is particularly upsetting, because there's some decent material that tries to rise above the stereotypical views Pure Flix films have earned themselves at the box office. If you're just looking to get your fix of the usual Easter appropriate entertainment, this film goes down easy and smooth. If you're looking for a movie to challenge your notions of what a faith based blockbuster can do, you're going to be disappointed, as God's Not Dead: A Light In Darkness acts as nothing more than another paint by numbers stained glass tile in the church of Pure Flix. God may not be dead, but this series should either come to the table with something new, or put itself out on an ice floe before its congregation does it first.