CHICAGO (Christian Examiner) – Matthew Peyton is a workaholic, materialistic business owner whose automotive factory, which he inherited from his father, is on the verge of bankruptcy. That's bad enough, but his employees also are going on strike, which means he won't be able to sell any of his product and dig out of the financial hole.
To make matters worse, this is all happening right before Christmas and just prior to the popular Christmas pageant – a town tradition that his business has sponsored and bankrolled for years. Besides, he doesn't even want to hold it this year.
"I don't see the benefit anymore," he says.
He decides to cancel the pageant, even though the mayor and town officials claim there is a contract – signed by his grandfather – obligating the factory to sponsor it.
The Christmas-centric film Believe (PG) opens in about 600 theaters this weekend, telling the story of one Matthew Peyton (Ryan O'Quinn), who struggles to find hope in life as his workforce and the town's citizens turn against him.
Peyton's life takes a turn when he meets a young boy, Clarence (Isaac Ryan Brown), and his mother, Sharon (Danielle Nicolet) — two people who are so poor they don't have a phone and who live in a run-down building. Their optimism and determination despite their circumstances gives him a new perspective on life ... and hope.
Soon, he is housing homeless people in his worker-less factory, protecting them from frigid conditions outside. And when town bureaucrats tell him he isn't allowed to turn his factory into a homeless shelter, he gets around the regulations by putting them to work. But will he find the funds to sponsor the pageant?
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Believe was written and directed by Billy Dickson, a talented cinematographer who was nominated for Primetime Emmys in 2001 and 2002 for his work on Ally McBeal and who has been behind the camera for other shows you may have seen, including Macy's 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular.
Yet despite Dickson's talent, Believe falls flat in several areas.
The story is disjointed, sometimes confusing, and – despite being the fact that I'm a sucker for emotional-laden films – I never felt empathy for anyone. Was I supposed to be mad at Peyton? Feel sorry for him? I'm not sure. There's also a theological problem at the end when Clarence wishes so hard for something – and, voila – his wish gets granted!
Believe begins somewhat strong but sort of whimpers out. The acting is OK to good, and the film has a good heart, but I finished it thinking it would have been best to go straight to DVD.
Believe is rated PG for some violence, thematic elements and brief mild language (OMG).
Entertainment rating: 2.5 out of 5. Family-friendly rating: 4 out of 5.