Brothers Alex & Stephen Kendrick, of Georgia, are white fundamentalist Evangelical Christians who have made many a film about other white fundamentalist Evangelical Christians. One of them starred no less a superstar in that community than Kirk Cameron, which tells you what kind of fundamentalist Evangelicalism they're attached to, and I will not suggest what response you should have to that knowledge (that film, incidentally, was the tormented "fire fighting is like praying to save your marriage" domestic drama Fireproof, which I have stupidly not just seen, but reviewed. See, I was punished for my sins). War Room, the brothers' latest - as always, Alex directs, Stephen produces, and they both write - is significant for two reasons: one is that it's their first movie financed like an actual film production by a real movie studio, Sony's Affirm Films branch; the other is that it's their first movie about Black fundamentalist Evangelical Christians, which gives me a moment of doubt. I don't know shit about shit, of course, but I did have it in my head that American Evangelical Protestantism came in some very incompatible flavors, and one of the most apparent variables is the race of the Protestants in question. But that doesn't seem to have gotten in the way of War Room becoming one of the bigger breakout faith-based hits in recent years, even managing the extremely rare feat of taking the #1 spot at the U.S. box office the weekend that it opened (one might cynically note that this was the only weekend in 2015 with a #1 film which grossed less than $10 million).

After all that preamble, how about the film? How about not, for much like the Kendricks' other film that I have stumbled across, War Room starts off from a scenario that ought to be pretty unacceptable regardless of anyone's feelings about the heavy-handed religious content: toxic, dying marriages (the only kind the Kendricks acknowledge, from my limited sample) should be saved by the more level-headed, decent half of the relationship - yes, obviously the wife in this case - making every conceivable excuse for their spouse's shittiness and it's frankly their own fault for having a boorish asshole for a husband, because they should know that bad marriages are God's punishment for not praying enough. I do not care how kind wise old lady Clara Williams (Karen Abercrombie) might be, nor how flowing and poetic her word choices, that's what the kids call "problematic".

Two things make War Room at least tolerable, from different directions. The good thing is Priscilla Shirer's performance as Elizabeth Jordan, the woman whose gigantic dick of a husband (T.C. Stallings) is always yelling and making leering faces at other women. Shirer is a minister, not an actor, but you could never tell; there's a frankness and well-worn quality to her line deliveries and the relaxed carriage of her body that feel like she was born to this, while her actual training gives her the comfort and vocal authority to sell the screenplay's more outlandishly florid, preacherly touches, like the scene where Elizabeth walks through her house, demanding that Satan leave it, culminating in a sequence where she stands in her front yard, in the middle of the night, yelling (bonus touch - she walks inside, and then pokes back out, because she remembered one last thing that Satan had done that she needed to tell him off for).

That's the other thing, the "bad" one - War Room is all kinds of kitschy, in a frankly rather enjoyable way. The whole plot hook, in which suburban bedroom closets are converted into "war rooms" where beleaguered spouses can plan their strategies for prayer-battle, is kind of marvelously batty, especially in a sequence where a pastor is almost bowled over by the residual energy of Clara's war room; the final act, where the film decides that, surprise! it was secretly always an underdog sports movie about a competitive double Dutch tournament all along, is certainly enough to slide things into outright camp. By no means do I want anybody reading this to see it for any reason, but if you happen to have the weird fortune to stumble across it and you can't get out, at least there's some compensating pleasure to be scraped out of it.