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Letters to God (2010)

Starring:

Bailee Madison

Dennis Neal

Jeffrey Johnson

Maree Cheatham

Michael Christopher Bolten

Ralph Waite

Robyn Lively

Tanner Maguire

Directed by:

David Nixon

Patrick Doughtie

Rating: 4/10

“Letters to God” isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea—it wears its heart on its sleeve, and it’s a big, shining heart full of Jesus and light, which would cause some to think that it may have a niche audience. That assumption is actually sort of true, but you have to keep in mind that the “niche” is pretty darn big, especially considering this is one of those movies (like that Kirk Cameron “Fireproof” flick) that’s family-viewing fare for church groups around the country—and church groups are quite lucrative. This is a movie you know going in what to expect, so be prepared to feel manipulated or inspired, depending on where you’re starting from.

As one might expect if they know the title of the movie they’re about to see, this one revolves around—that’s right—some letters to God. In this case, said letters are being penned by cancer-stricken eight-year-old Tyler Doherty, a way too nice kid living with his mother (Robyn Lively) and older brother (Michael Christopher Bolten). Eventually, Tyler’s notes make it to his mailman (Jeffrey S.S. Johnson) who, incidentally, is a drinker, and he takes them to a church. He also befriends various people along his mail route, and it all becomes an inspirational examination of prayer and faith.

The thing about movies like this one, or “Fireproof”, or “Left Behind”, is that to audiences who aren’t Christians, they may come off as feeling like church propaganda. I’m not saying it’s true for this one, but scenes of prayer and open discussions of faith sometimes make people uncomfortable. Also, while one group will find the movie’s sweetness and almost old-fashioned speak refreshing, others will find it sappy or cheesy. None of these things are actually bad in and of themselves; again, those who are looking for a Christian-based movie won’t have a problem with any of that stuff, and those who aren’t probably won’t see it anyway. What seems to resonate badly for me is the saintly nature of young Tyler—sure, I get it, especially since the story is based on the real life of writer Patrick Doughtie’s son’s struggle with rare brain cancer Medulloblastoma—but while other kids-with-cancer films like “My Sister’s Keeper” manage to allow their young heroes some character levels, Tyler winds up being a too good, perfect child, which detracts from his story and makes him more of a catalyst. There’s a certain old timey charm about “Letters to God,” and if you just go with it, you’ll probably cry, but if you’re not with your church group or of a like mind, you’ll probably just be rolling your eyes a lot.

It's Got: Some solid acting, a few teary moments know matter who you are, lots of God talk

It Needs: A little less melodrama, a little more development for Tyler, Kleenex

Alternatives:

Pay It Forward, Fireproof, My Sister's Keeper

Summary

“Letters to God” is a sweet tribute to a real-life little boy’s courageous fight with cancer but as a movie, despite some good performances, it won’t appeal to everyone.

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