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TITLE: I’m in love with a church girl
DIRECTOR: Steve Race
CAST: Stephen Baldwin, Michael Madsen, Jeffrey “Ja Rule” Atkins, Adrienne Bailon
CLASSIFICATION: 7-9 PG
RUNNING TIME: 118 minutes
RATING: 2 stars (out of 5)
The faith-based I’m in Love With a Church Girl raises many questions, not the least of which is how a PG-rated movie could star Jeffrey “Ja Rule” Atkins, who shot to fame in the early 2000s rapping about his fetish for, well, things that cannot be printed in this newspaper.
And yet here he is – just months after getting out of prison – in a movie produced by Reverence Gospel Media. Atkins plays Miles, a reformed drug dealer who meets Vanessa (Bailon), a devout Christian. Although Miles carries a gun and still hangs out with drug dealers, he’s focused his impressive money-making skills on legal ventures.
Regardless, the feds are secretly on his tail, and one agent, played by Stephen Baldwin (pictured right), is convinced Miles’s eight-bedroom mansion and Bentley-filled garage indicate felonious dealings.
That’s just a sub-plot, though, and most of the story focuses on Miles and his new love. We’re supposed to root for these two to make it, although Vanessa is jealous and pushy. During the few moments she isn’t berating him about accompanying her to church on Sunday morning, the pair find easy rapport, although those moments are few and fleeting.
The story is based on the life of another ex-convict, screenwriter Galley Molina, who’s out to prove that religion can be cool and that because you go to church doesn’t mean you can’t dress like a rapper and drive a “Lambo” (Lamborghini).
Molina has a bit role as a pastor, also named Galley, who drives such a sports car and sings to his congregation while wearing jeans and a flat-brimmed baseball cap. When Miles comments that Galley doesn’t look like a preacher, the screenwriter-turned-actor explains that style isn’t a sin.
Atkins is a decent actor, but the supporting cast members sound as if they’re reading their lines. Even usually impressive performers, such as Vincent Pastore (The Sopranos), have a stilted delivery. The acting isn’t nearly as distracting as the music, however, which is constant and ham-handed. For example, the first time Miles sees Vanessa, a symphony erupts.
There’s also a conflict in tone. Some actors appear to be starring in a farcical comedy, while Atkins and Bailon play it straight, especially during the predictable crisis of faith. The intentions for I’m in Love With a Church Girl may have been noble, but nearly every part of the delivery turns out to be flawed.
While religion may have been Molina’s salvation, he could have employed subtlety when proselytising about the power of belief. Instead, his motives are transparent and, after two hours, tiresome. – Washington Post
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