Lee Strobel became a fundamentalist Christian hero thanks to his 1998 book “The Case for Christ,” chronicling how his dogged research into Jesus’ resurrection helped convert him from atheism. Director Jon Gunn and screenwriter Brian Bird’s film version emphasizes Stobel’s personal drama over his academic investigation, which makes for a watchable movie but thin theology.
Mike Vogel plays Strobel, who at the start of the 1980s was an award-winning Chicago journalist with a happy marriage and a bright future, until his wife, Leslie (played by Erika Christensen), found God. Anxious to get their life back to the way things were, he started interviewing scholars in various disciplines, hoping that by presenting Leslie with the facts, she’d back down.
Gunn and Bird pull a lot from the book’s intro and brief asides, telling parallel stories about Strobel’s marriage, his career, and a newspaper crime story that he botched. The subplots keep the film moving, giving something for even nonbelievers to latch on to.
But the meat of the movie is in the evidence the reporter amasses, and it’s here that both the devout and the doubters may be disappointed. Unlike the detailed arguments in the source material, the adaptation skims the surface of what Strobel found, presenting it in the vaguest terms.
Give credit to the filmmakers for making a faith-affirming picture that aims to be more thoughtful than maudlin. But what they’ve ended up with is a fairly rote Christian redemption narrative — albeit with more charts and graphs.
‘The Case for Christ’
Rating: PG, for thematic elements including medical descriptions of crucifixion, and incidental smoking
Running time: 1 hour, 52 minutes
Playing: In general release