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The Second Chance

Movie Review
by RL Williams
The Second Chance
     The Second Chance is a movie that takes on the complexities of cultural difference and social conscience. The film stars Grammy award-winning musician Michael W. Smith in his first acting role as Ethan Jenkins, a rock star turned associate pastor of a suburban mega-church called The Rock.

     The film co-stars jeff obafemi carr, a multi-talented artist with experience in acting, singing, writing, and directing. jeff prefers lower case letters for his name as a gesture of humility. His character, Jake Sanders, is the pastor of a small urban inner city church called Second Chance Community Church that deals daily with all the associated problems plaguing the economically starved inner cities.

     Michael W. Smith does amazingly well in his acting debut, considering his only acting experience was working with an acting coach in preparation for this movie. Equally amazing is the performance by jeff carr who nails his character with realism and genuine passion. jeff becomes Jake Sanders.

     The background of the film involves Jeremiah Jenkins (played by J. Don Ferguson) who founded Second Chance Community Church in the 1960's and was part of the civil rights movement. Time has seen him move on to The Rock mega-church. The Rock has become part of the new electronic church era where it's about TV, image, timing, and donations.

     Jerimiah's son, Ethan, is caught up in the image and the worldly business of the church. An affluent yuppie with attitude, Ethan finds himself at odds with the church's leadership after creating some waves. The church's board decides "he needs his wings clipped" and they decide to send him to Second Chance Community Church.

     The plot revolves around both pastors, Ethan and Jake, as their cultures clash when Ethan is sent unwillingly to "observe and learn" at Second Chance and the surrounding community. Both pastors have their own set of flaws and culturally conditioned attitudes.

     Ethan feels being sent to the inner city is beneath him and not worthy of his time. "I am an associate pastor, not a social worker," he protests when told of his assignment.

     Jake, the Second Chance pastor, also has his cultural conditioning come into play. "We've seen enough of those ghetto tourists down here … hanging around just long enough so they can go back and tell their congregations that they've 'been there' ".

     The stage is set for conflict that extends beyond the surface of black/white issues. Both pastors are separated by economic barriers and their views of how to help people and handle problems. Ethan's rich suburban church mentality is to throw money at a problem and walk away. Pastor Jake's method of choice is to roll up your sleeves, get on the streets, and make a difference one person at a time. Some of his tactics are tough-love.

     As Ethan navigates his way through the real life of the inner city, his belief system is thrown into turmoil. There are several memorable scenes in this movie, one of the most compelling is the sub-plot involving the African refugee child's paper plate drawing. Without revealing too much, I will say the associated scenes with this paper plate demonstrate that sometimes the seemingly small things in life can have a huge impact.

     Ethan's acceptance into this different culture is slow. It's a painful learning curve but to his credit, Ethan continues forward. There are failures and there are victories. In one scene we see how music can serve as a wonderful bridge between personal and cultural differences. Acceptance involves doing and taking action, not just words or money.

     As the movie progresses, power, money, and politics threaten Second Chance's existence. Out of the uncertainty, Ethan experiences another defining moment of life that will further serve to "call him home." Another defining moment for several characters comes during a foot-washing scene.

     One of the most powerful scenes involves Jake's speech near the end of the film. jeff carr absolutely nails it with passion, emotion, and sheer believability. Michael W. Smith's musical score for this scene using his instrumental song "The Last Hallelujah" is perfection.

     Another highlight and thought-provoking moment was Ethan's short rendition singing the song "Sinking Sand" echoing how staying in one's comfort zone is standing in "sinking sand". The defining moments he has had during his journey have made him realize his own sinking sand.

     The movie could have ended several different ways. According to the commentary information, there was considerable discussion on how the film should end. The ending that was finally chosen worked for me. Its message was clear and thought provoking. It was the right choice.

     Michael W. Smith did the musical scoring for many of the scenes as well as performing and co-writing the track "All in the Serve". Michael's son Ryan Smith has since produced a music video of "All in the Serve." Michael also performed all of his own piano and singing scenes and seemed right at home doing so. This was probably due to his 20+ years of music and concert experience as well as 18 albums.

     The film was directed by Steve Taylor, his first feature length directing job. Prior to The Second Chance, he made several short films and music videos. Considering this and the fact that The Second Chance was a small budget film, he did an incredible job.

     The commentary track in the DVD's special features section provided some interesting insights to the behind the scenes trials and tribulations that went into creating this movie. Steve Taylor, Michael W. Smith, and jeff carr recounted the obstacles that had to be overcome and how some of the casting assignments came to be. A significant amount of local talent was used. The film was shot entirely on location around Nashville, Tennessee.

     Speaking of casting, many of the smaller roles were perfectly done. Henry Haggard, who played Sonny, the challenged Second Chance Community Church custodian, could not have been cast better. Shirley Cody, playing Miss Burdoe, the choir leader, was simply outstanding. The chemistry between her and Michael was obvious. Jamal, the drug dealer played by Robert Fitzgerald, brought his street character to believable and authentic life. J. Don Ferguson, who played Jerimiah Jenkins, did a memorable job that included his character's humble personal transformation.

     This was a limited release film to theaters in February (2006) and was just released on video in July (2006). The Second Chance movie is from an original screenplay by Steve Taylor, Chip Arnold, and Ben Pearson. The Second Chance is rated PG-13 due to some drug references.

     The film succeeds in tackling tough contemporary issues in a compelling and entertaining way. If you want to experience a great film that was created on a small budget by people who regarded it as a true labor of love, see this movie! The movie's message is one of hope, reconciliation, humility, tolerance, forgiveness, and understanding … something the world needs now more than ever.
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