"23 Blast" Review

Title: 23 Blast 
Director: Dylan Baker 
Studio: Ocean Avenue Entertainment 
Genre(s): Drama 
Rated: PG-13 (For some teen drinking)

If this movie is any indication, then there's a chance Christian films starting to grow up a bit. “23 Blast” is being made by Christians and sold to Christians, however the film actually feels like a real movie. Though sentimental the film is not preachy per se. There is no freshman college student schooling an atheist professor at theology, no people mysterious disappearing so unbelievers can suffer, nor any men following a Christian therapy program. The characters may be Christian but they don't spend all their free time quoting Bible verses and preaching (in fact, like many people, they only really turn to God during times of hardship). In a sense, they act like real Christians do: Like most other people who live their daily lives. “23 Blast” is inspired by the true story of Travis Freeman (Mark Hakpa), a high school football player who was good at playing the game he loved so much.

He is a happy teenager who spends his time hanging out with friends and playing football, a game he has played since he was young and loves a lot. One morning he wakes up one day with a puffy face that turns out to be a serious infection. He is rushed to emergency surgery, where his life is saved but at the cost of his eyesight. Travis, who has been able to see his whole life, is now blind. His sight will not be coming back. His football playing days are over. He angrily pulls off the cross around his neck and throws it across the room. His devout mother finds it on the ground and looks at it with a sense of understanding. You can tell she herself is mad at God as well. It's a type of honesty we rarely see in Christian films, where the characters are mad at their divine creator and seem to have every right to be.

Why, even when they go to church the pastor speaks a message that confirms that being trapped in eternal darkness is a scary thought (as many Christian will tell you though, this is usually when God speaks to you). This is an inspirational story though, so the film doesn't dwell too much on the negative aspects of the problems Travis's coach (Steven Lang) comes up with the crazy idea to let him back on the team if he changes positions (I think he goes from being a quarterback to a center, but I have to confess dear readers that I am not a sports man and have no idea what the positions actually mean). From this point on the movie follows a straightforward path of overcoming obstacles and winning the big game at the end. This you'll figure out early on because the film makes little effort to hide the fact. There are a few other subplots that pop up here and there, but they seem perfunctory and don't add up in the long scheme of things. There is a romance that is obvious from the get go so there is little sexual tension.

Travis also has a best friend named Jerry (Bram Hoover) who has always played second fiddle to Travis since they were kids. This never seemed to bother Jerry much, as he spends most of his time drinking beer and goofing off, until a certain point in the film it does long enough for it to not bother him anymore. Why that subplot? The screenplay demanded it and I suppose there just wasn't enough conflict. I feel a more experienced filmmaker would have either edited things like this out or have worked them into the final product much better. Considering the film was funded by a Christian radio station I suppose people shouldn't expect too much. Still, with movie ticket prices these days the effort needs to be better than this. If there is one area where the film is unquestionably a success it's in the fact that this is an easy recommendation if you're a Christian family who wants wholesome entertainment as opposed to entertainment that consistently works.

I find it baffling that the MPAA has given this movie a PG-13 for some mild teen drinking and a cut hand. Even with these minor problems I believe the movie could have received a G rating without anyone complaining too much. I still can't really recommend “23 Blast” because it's too light and soft in a few aspects that would make it very good if there were some more weight to them. I do believe this film serves a purpose though: To be clean entertainment for Christian families. Considering there are millions of them out there, they should largely be happy with the film. It's also nice to have a Christian film that makes an attempt to be honest and real. If the direction were a little stronger I think we might have had a film that I could have recommended to a general audience. Instead I'm slightly not recommending the film unless you fit under the previously established guidelines. For now it will have to do until the Christian genre truly grows up.