It’s been four long years since Christian filmmakers Alex and Stephen Kendrick shocked Hollywood with a film – War Room – that climbed to No. 1 in the nation on its second weekend.
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Their newest film is finally here.
Overcomer (PG) opens Aug. 23, telling the story of a high school basketball coach, John Harrison, who grows discouraged when his best players leave town after their parents become unemployed – thus dashing his hopes for a state championship. His mood worsens when he is forced to coach the cross-country team, which has only one runner, a girl named Hannah.
Harrison questions his worth and life’s purpose until he crosses path with a blind Christian man who is comfortable in his own skin.
Here are five things you should know about Overcomer:
1. It Had a Record Budget
The budget was $5 million – perhaps pennies by Hollywood standards, but far more than that of their three previous movies: War Room ($3 million), Courageous ($2 million) and Fireproof ($500,000). The bigger budget translates to the big screen with drone shots – the opening drone-shot scene of a basketball game is spectacular – and special effects. The Kendricks also used better cameras – “the same cameras and lenses they used to film Avengers,” Alex Kendrick, the director, told Crosswalk.
For the first time, the Kendricks had their own sets built, too.
“So when you see the movie, and you see inside of someone’s home, we built all of that,” Alex Kendrick said. “And so we had full control over not only the scenery but the lighting, the sound, the air conditioning – all that stuff. And that was a blessing for us to do. … [W]e did things we’ve never done before in any of our films.”
2. It Has a Christ-Centric Theme: Identity
Themes are a common thread through Kendrick Brothers’ films. War Room examined prayer. Courageous spotlighted fatherhood. Fireprooflooked at marriage. Facing the Giantsexplored fear and faith.
Overcomer focuses on the believer’s identity in Christ. The movie’s posters ask the question: What do you allow to define you? It may seem abstract at first glance, but it has real-world and eternal implications. Many men and women obtain their identity in their job. Others find it in their family, finances, talents, hobbies or through social media. But Ephesians 1-2 says Christians must find their identity in Christ. It’s a key to true joy and spiritual growth.
“God loves you the most, knows you the best, and has the authority to tell you who you are,” Alex Kendrick said. “Why would we let feelings – or anything that changes – tell us who we are? Those things can be stripped away. … There is an anchor that you can lock onto that is unchanging. That’s the character of Jesus Christ.”
3. It Has a Well-Known Faith-Based Cast… and Newcomers, Too
Overcomer stars Alex Kendrick (Facing the Giants, Courageous) as coach John Harrison; Shari Rigby (October Baby, Wildflower) as Harrison’s wife, Amy; and Priscilla C. Shirer (War Room) as the school’s principal, Olivia Banks. Newcomer Aryn Wright-Thompson plays Hannah, the high school cross country runner, while newbies Jack Sterner and Caleb Kendrick play Harrison’s sons. All three newcomers are solid.
Wright-Thompson, who is 16, said teens living in the social media age need to hear the movie’s message.
“People always try to tell you, ‘You need to look like this person, or you need to do something this way,” she told Crosswalk. “But knowing that God loves me, and God is the one who made me – he’s my Creator – why would I want to be somebody else? … And I just want to teach kids you don’t have to do that. Be yourself, be who you’re meant to be, and stop trying to be the other person.”
4. It’s the Kendricks’ 6th Film
It all began in 2003 with Flywheel (the Kendricks still laugh at that one) and was followed by 2006’s Facing the Giants (which got nationwide attention due to an undeserved PG rating), 2008’s Fireproof (which included one of Kirk Cameron’s best performances), 2011’s Courageous (which includes gut-wrenching scenes that will make anyone cry), and 2015’s War Room (which became their first film to climb to No. 1 for a weekend). The first four were made under the umbrella of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga., the last two under their own company, Kendrick Brothers.
Like every Kendrick Brothers production, each day on the set began with prayer and a devotion.
“I’ve been in Hollywood a lot – done a lot of productions – and the… lack of tension [on the set] was glaring,” said actor Cameron Arnett, who plays the blind Christian man who befriends the basketball coach.
Arnett compared it to a church service, with people singing and “loving and taking care of each other.” There was a sense of “oneness,” he said.
“It’s the way it should be,” he added.
5. It’s Accompanied by a Movie-Themed Study Guide
The Christian publisher LifeWay is releasing multiple Overcomer resources for churches and small groups, including an Overcomer Bible study kit and workbook, along with books for adults (Defined), teen girls and young women (Radiant), teen boys and young men (Revealed), middle schoolers (Wonderful) and young children (What’s So Wonderful about Webster?)
The film, producer Stephen Kendrick said, was made as an evangelistic tool and as a way to introduce Christians to the subject of identity in Christ.
“Our heart’s desire is that lives will be changed,” he said.
A successful opening weekend, Stephen Kendrick added, is essential. Some churches are buying out entire theaters.
“If people support it opening weekend, they expand it – more cities, more theaters,” he said. … “If people don’t go see it opening weekend, they’ll take it out of theaters. It’s a big deal what happens opening weekend.”