Will Sean Hannity Save (or Destroy) Hollywood? UPDATED
(UPDATE at bottom)
Who would have thought that just as Hollywood was falling apart, its box office receipts in the toilet, and its most Oscar-laden producer being revealed to have spent the better part of his life in one, a new producer would come riding in on a white horse to save the entertainment industry and that producer would be... Sean Hannity?!
Well, not by himself. The popular Fox News host is flanked by three more seasoned filmmakers — director/actor Kevin Sorbo, his wife, actress/writer Sam Sorbo, and longtime screenwriter Dan Gordon. Their film — Let There Be Light — opened Friday in a few hundred theaters nationwide. I saw it in the privacy of my office where, as an Academy member, I often watch screeners while, I'm ashamed to admit, multitasking. This time I didn't. The movie was too compelling.
The reason was simple. Unlike almost all Hollywood fare, this film was made for a purpose beyond the personal enrichment or aggrandizement of the filmmakers.
That message was Christian redemption and it is quite heartfelt. It is easy to see how the movie could be a hit with the burgeoning Christian film audience, a not insubstantial market. But it could go beyond that. According to a 2016 Gallup poll, 89 percent of Americans still believe in God. That's a pretty decent demographic that Hollywood often forgets — or insults. In the old days, it didn't. (More of that in a moment. First the plot premise.)
Kevin Sorbo plays Dr. Sol Harkins, world's most famous atheist and author of the best-selling Aborting God. He's a Bill Maher wannabe, making big bucks and romancing models while taking potshots at naive Christians. Sol lost his nine-year-old son to cancer, which not only precipitated his atheism, but also a divorce from his Christian wife Katy (Sam Sorbo) with whom he has two other sons. He's living a life of jazz and kicks and copious amounts of vodka until, after one or three too many, he drives headlong into a wall and has one of those near-death experiences from which, since we are only twenty minutes into the movie, he emerges.
From there begins his road to redemption that takes a number of turns, some tugging at the heartstrings. The movie is highly melodramatic, which is both its blessing and its curse, but largely the former. Because the plot is so melodramatic, occasionally the film is too on the nose, but both Sorbos are excellent actors and the authenticity of their performances always succeeds in overcoming it.
Part of the problem is us. We are not used to seeing movies so heartfelt anymore, especially in the spiritual arena. It can embarrass us. It's not chic, as so many Hollywood movies are. But the old Hollywood movies (mostly) weren't chic. Casablanca wasn't chic, and it was very heartfelt. Let There Be Light is too. And it makes you think.