By Jonathan Decker
WHAT'S THE FIGHTING PREACHER ABOUT?
A Latter-day Saint boxer and his wife are called to take care of the farm of church prophet Joseph Smith, 80 years after the faith left Palmyra, New York. Met with aggressive persecution and bigotry by the locals, he tries to change things with his fists, but his wife sees that the hand of friendship and kindness is what is needed.
IS IT ANY GOOD? (GRADE: A-)
Director T.C. Christensen (17 Miracles, Ephraim's Rescue, The Cokeville Miracle, Love Kennedy) returns with another beautifully-shot, warmly-acted, unabashedly Latter-day Saint film meant to inspire kindness and faith. The Fighting Preacher once again finds the director leaning into his strengths, with cleanly-shot, calmly-edited, old-fashioned film-making reminiscent of Frank Capra, capturing a true story that promotes interfaith friendship, increased tolerance and love for one's neighbor, and facing opposition and cruelty with kindness.
As boxing champion Willard Bean, David McConnell displays an impressive athleticism, hot temper, and marvelous sense of humor. Cassidy Hubert leaves a powerful impression as Rebecca Bean, the true heart and backbone of the story whose example brings out the best in her husband. Scarlett Hazen elicits audience empathy as their daughter Palmyra. The locations are gorgeous, the cinematography lush and memorable, and the music stirring.
If Christensen has a weakness (and it's a small one), it's in the setup. When his films have scenes that aren't as well-acted or written, it's on the front end and such is the case here. A couple of early moments fail to have the intended impact. On the back end, however, the director and his films are all aces, delivering wave after wave of genuine uplift and inspiration building to their resolution. The Fighting Preacher takes a few to the chin early on, but then comes out swinging. When it counts, it's a knockout.
IS IT OKAY FOR YOUR KIDS?
The Fighting Preacher is rated PG. It has some boxing violence and punches thrown. A young girl is bullied and rejected at school. There are a few tense moments in which locals threaten the missionary family. There is no offensive language.
ANY WORTHWHILE MESSAGES?
Bigotry is overcome through friendship, not violence. Intolerance is best combated with forgiveness, kindness, and a good example. Families can help each other and sustain each other through the hardest of times. Arrogance and showing off won't win you any friends, but showing a genuine interest in others will.