Even foreign-language films were much better publicized. "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" comes from a critically acclaimed series of books by Swedish author Stieg Larssen, drew 31 reviews despite being in only 126 theaters. "A Prophet," which is not a religious movie but a French gangster-in-prison picture, drew 35 thrilled reviewers despite being on just 86 screens.
"Letters to God" was released in 897 theaters. How many reviews did it garner? Four.
This is where it becomes perfectly clear that reviewers promote what they like -- those cultural subversives and insurgents -- and often ignore what they don't. "Letters to God" is directed by David Nixon, a producer of two other faith-based movies, "Facing the Giants" and "Fireproof," which earned a surprising $33 million at the box office. It's co-directed by Patrick Doughtie, who wrote the screenplay loosely based on his own son's courageous but losing battle with cancer.
The plot turns not only on the boy with the brain tumor, but on the booze-soaked cynical mailman who must decide what to do with this mail addressed to Heaven. This boy's earnest letters to God ultimately serve as special inspiration for the mailman and everyone else who's handed one. In the middle of stress, characters hold hands and pray like -- gasp -- evangelical Christians.
Now you understand why so many of those supposedly open-minded critics, the ones who will sit through hour after hour of sick chronicles of perversion, said "pass" to this movie.
As art, critics could charge that this film comes on too strong and soap-operatic, packing the emotional punch of a cancer-stricken boy in a family that lost its father to a car accident. Neil Genzlinger of The New York Times, who has a strange beat in reviewing films and plays that may otherwise go unnoticed, thought the film could have been more powerful and had some good acting, but didn't have enough "restraint and subtlety."
"Letters to God" dares to be inspirational and "small." There are no car chases, explosions or gunfights, and there are no Swedish subtitles. It opened in only a fraction of the available theaters. It received virtually no publicity.
And after that, it was still one of the Top Ten moneymaking films last week. What does that say about public demand?