Grading the Films of Rick Santorum’s Christian Movie Company

Our see it/skip it reviews of eight straight-to-DVD releases from EchoLight, the ex-senator's new studio.

Rick Santorum: attorney, former United States senator from Pennsylvania, presidential candidate, and now … movie mogul.

Over the weekend, Rick Santorum announced that he is taking a job as CEO of Christian film studio EchoLight. “Dallas can become the Hollywood of the faith-and-family movie market,” Santorum said in a company press release.

EchoLight says it has two feature films coming to theaters and a third, Hoovey, in production, starring Patrick Warburton, who provides the voice of Joe on the Family Guy (the most family-friendly show on television). But EchoLight also has a catalog of straight-to-DVD Christian fun. Join me, won’t you, in analyzing the trailers of these movies and seeing if they’re worth watching.

25 Hill

Subject: Winning a Soap Box Derby race, saving the entire Soap Box Derby from financial collapse
Notable Actors: Corbin Bernsen (all three Major League films, L.A. Law), Nathan Gamble (Commissioner Gordon’s kid in The Dark Knight), Timothy Omundson (Psych)
Key Line From Trailer: “What’s so funny?” “I just wanted to see if you were right! You were.”
Christianity Meter (1–10): 4. The Soap Box Derby car says “Faith and Courage” on it, but otherwise this seems like your average Hollywood sports movie.

If you’re wondering if EchoLight can imitate Hollywood, look no further than 25 Hill, which appears to share the same plot as every other sports movie ever made: misfit wins the big game. He has the grizzled mentor, he has the insurmountable odds, he has the tragic dead-father backstory. And, hey, Corbin Bernsen directed and wrote this film! Did you notice the Indians jersey in the celebratory scene near the end of the trailer? I’m going to go ahead and say that’s a Major League reference.

Verdict: See it, if you’re into any other kids’ sports film ever made.

3 Day Test

Subject: It’s like Home Alone, but with a whole family!
Notable Actors: Megyn Price (Rules of Engagement, Grounded for Life), Corbin Bernsen (who directed and co-wrote the film), Taylor Spreitler (Melissa and Joey)
Key Line From Trailer: “We’ve got toilets, high above traffic!”
Christianity Meter: 1. This is a movie set at Christmas, but all I see are secular symbols.

Did you notice the trailer calls the film 3 Day Christmas instead of 3 Day Test? That first one is a much, much better movie title. I have no idea who Uncle Sam is and why he’s breaking into this house — maybe it’s a Tea Party film? — and I have absolutely no idea how this went from survivalist comedy to Home Alone ripoff. How much do you want to bet the kid puts his hands to his face and screams in this one? Trick question: No bookie would ever offer odds on that.

Note: I did find a more Christian-oriented trailer for this film that references Jonah and faith.

Verdict: See it, for the ridiculousness.

Beyond the Heavens

Subject: Finding Jesus despite loving science
Notable Actors: Corbin Bernsen again! And Nathan Gamble again, too. Bernsen and Gamble are the two biggest Christian actors in the world, best I can tell. Dendrie Taylor, Luanne from Sons of Anarchy, is also in this.
Key Line From Trailer: “Hey.” “You’re weird.” “I know.” “And I like that.” “That’s because you’re a little weird, too.” Hey, kids: Always open your windows to weird strangers.
Christianity Meter: 10. This one possibly goes to 11.

Here we go! I was hoping we’d get a film about finding Christian faith sometime soon. The film’s clearly told as one big flashback by a grizzled old Christian man, which is a nice touch. I wonder if he’s a scientist who’s also religious! I do wonder, however, about the message of someone becoming Christian because he met an angel. It seems like that’s less likely to have a real-life applications.

Verdict: Skip it.


Subject: Christian skateboarders
Notable Actors: Hey, Christian Hosoi! He was a Tony Hawk rival until he fled from the law for five years before being caught with crystal meth, per Wikipedia.
Key Line From Trailer: “If it’s really as simple as all this, why’s his message got so tweaked over all these years?” said in the best English accent ever.
Christianity Meter: 10. Even the skateboards have Jesus on them.

I love sports documentaries, and I’d totally like to hear about Christian skateboarders. Pretty sure this is meant to convert people, but I went to 12 years of Catholic school so I’m kind of immune to that kind of thing. Plus, it’s only 60 minutes long!

Verdict: See it.

I Am Gabriel

Subject: Honestly, I have no idea
Notable Actors: John Schneider (Bo Duke from The Dukes of Hazzard) and Dean Cain (Superman himself!)
Key Line From Trailer: “I’m just looking for hope.” “Wrong town, son.”
Christianity Meter: 10, despite the presence of Bo Duke.

Pretty sure the angel Gabriel comes to the horrible, foreclosure-ridden town of Promise, Texas, disguised as a boy and makes it rain. But with actual water, not money.

Verdict: Skip it.

The Potential Inside

Subject: A cyclist’s daughter dies (during the last race of his career?) and he turns to coaching (and Jesus, I’m sure) to help ease the pain
Notable Actors: Um, none? The main dude kinda looks like CSN Philly’s John Gonzalez, though.
Key Line From Trailer: “What kind of loving God lets that happen?”
Christianity Meter: A solid 7.

I can’t believe the Soap Box Derby film starring a child and Corbin Bernsen looks so much better than the cycling one.

Verdict: Skip it.


Subject: The early-life story of Josh McDowell, an evangelical Christian writer and evangelist
Notable Actors: None, but there’s a guy named Rusty Whitener in it.
Key Line From Trailer: I can’t decide between “I just want to see you graduate from high school. And, then, I want to die” and “Promise me that you’ll never, ever be an alcoholic.”
Christianity Meter: A perfect 10.

I’m pretty sure the same model car as the Ectomobile from Ghostbusters is in this trailer, only it’s painted orange. I doubt there’s a Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, though.

Verdict: Skip it.

Welcome to Paradise

Subject: Female minister saves small town in need of saving
Notable Actors: Brian Dennehy! He was a classic dramatic actor; if you’re my age, however, you know him as the father from Tommy Boy. Crystal Bernard from Wings is in it, too.
Key Line From Trailer: “Something that the whole family can sit and watch together and perhaps even talk about it afterwards.”
Christianity Meter: 8? 9?

Contrasted with Promise, Texas, from earlier, this film is set in Paradise, Texas, another town that needs the Lord. However, since it’s just a minister doing the saving instead of an archangel, Paradise appears to be in better shape than Promise. The message of both films, though, is this: Stay out of optimistically named Texas towns.

Verdict: Skip it.