Faith-themed feature film "War Room" took the U.S. box office by storm, bringing in more than $11 million during its opening weekend. But while the movie has been getting highly favorable reviews among audiences, critics have had an entirely different view.
While a rousing 91 percent of the more than 5,200 audience members liked "War Room" on Rotten Tomatoes, it received only a 33 percent favorability rating among the six top critics who reviewed it; that latter proportion decreased to 25 percent when accounting for all reviewers.
The Wrap recently posted a recap of the most scathing reviews, claiming that they "destroy" the film. Just consider, more specifically, what Kimberly Jones of the Austin Chronicle — whose review wasn't included among the Rotten Tomatoes lot — had to say.
"The filmmakers are upfront about their religious intent, and it follows that their audience is a targeted one," she wrote. "But the Kendricks have further limited that audience by presenting an emphatically anti-feminist picture of faith, repeatedly underscoring the idea that a woman must be submissive to her husband. I’m no expert on warmongering, but alienating half your army doesn’t seem like sound strategy."
That's a far cry from the rousing praise and the 4.5 out of 5 stars that the film received on Rotten Tomatoes. Clearly, half of the audience didn't feel alienated — or at least it seems that way based on the metrics.
This audience versus critic separation is a dynamic that "War Room" writer and producer Stephen Kendrick told TheBlaze offers him and his brother, Alex, a powerful corroboration: "When a movie gets [such high audience marks] and critics are trashing it, it's very clear that the filmmakers have reached their target audience, but the critics ain't their target audience."
The filmmaking brothers are used to seeing their films have "huge gaps" between audience and critical response — and Kendrick said that it's rooted in the fact that many movie critics simply don't understand that the Kendricks are making a "different kind of movie."
"War Room," like the Kendricks' other films — "Flywheel,” ”Courageous,” “Fireproof” and “Facing the Giants” — is specifically designed to meet the needs of a Christian audience, which is why Kendrick believes that there's such a disconnect.
"They don't understand, for the most part, the Christian culture," he said. "They don't understand what's going on."
He said that "War Room" is connecting on levels that critics simply don't know much about. While edgy content is typically used in movies to help sales, the Kendricks intentionally rely on story lines that sell faith, morality and positive values.
"We are making movies that are overt, specifically and first for a Christian audience," Kendrick said. "And we are being very guarded concerning the values and ethics that are being communicated."
He continued, "We're making the kind of movies we want to see. I don't like to see movies that trample on my faith."
"War Room" focuses in on main characters Tony and Elizabeth Jordan who appear to have it all — at least materially speaking. But their marriage is falling into ruins until Elizabeth meets Miss Clara, a prayer warrior who helps her change her entire life and perspective.
The story ultimately focuses on personal redemption and restoration.
Despite the negative reviews, Kendrick said that he and Alex aren't upset with the critics, though he expressed surprise that anyone would walk away from "War Room" feeling as though there was an "anti-feminist" tone.
"I'm trying to figure out where that's coming from," he said, noting his belief that the movie both honors and empowers women.
That said, the brothers understand that Hollywood doesn't really comprehend their message, Kendrick added.
Listen to a recent The Church Boys interview with the Kendricks below:
As for the massive box office performance, Kendrick said that he and his brother are "very grateful." They were hoping for big numbers and their aspirations clearly became a reality.
"We felt really good about $9 [million]. We were hoping for $10 — the $10 was the hallelujah goal," he said. "The fact that it was $11.3 — it was total icing on the cake."