It’s a spiritual second cousin to “The Book of Mormon” which similarly mocks the faithful but with a sweetness that undercuts the humor.
“Believe Me” isn’t nearly as funny – or vulgar – as that Broadway romp. Instead, it’s a quieter tale, one of false promises and our ability to convince others we have their best interests at heart. Even if that’s the last thing on our minds.
Sam (Alex Russell) is an affable college student used to getting his way. When his adviser (Nick Offerman, relishing his limited screen time) tells Sam about a college bill he didn’t see coming the young man’s gift for gab escapes him.
“Son, stop thinking about your dreams being crushed as a bad thing,” he tells Sam.
So along with three pals (Miles Fisher, Sinqua Walls and Max Adler) Sam concocts a fake charity, quickly snares the attention of a faith-friendly sponsor (Christopher McDonald) and finds success on a national tour, Bible in hand.
Can Sam hold his scam together, or with the presence of the lovely Callie (Johanna Braddy) and her nettlesome beau (Zachary Knighton) get in his way?
Early on, Sam convinces a fellow student how a fake story can still move the masses, like the notion that a young Albert Einstein struggled with math. That plants the seed for more deception. It’s also a sign of the satirical targets the filmmakers have in mind.
Christians aren’t in the cross hairs, even though the film gently mocks how gullible some can be when it comes to a good cause. It’s our penchant for putting undeserving people on a pedestal that’s being smart bombed, and with an accuracy that comes as a pleasant surprise.
The film has plenty to accomplish in its final moments, and not all the narrative threads align in harmony. It’s still a smart, satirical ride to Sam’s final speech, one that says plenty between the syllables. Just like “Believe Me,” a movie with far more on its plate than hitting the usual targets.
DID YOU KNOW: Directo Will Bakke insists the film isn’t a Christian movie despite the subject matter and his own faith. “Christianity is the backdrop to the story but I would never label it that,” he told Movie Mom Nell Minow.