A film review by Chet Tan, library volunteer
The first part of Matthew 11:17, as rendered in the NIV, reads: “We played the pipe for you, and you did not dance…,” and this is where the film “Play the Flute,” gets its title. This movie centers on Brandon Cobb (Brett Varvel), a young pastor who defers career advancement in favor of returning to the church he grew up in to revitalize its ailing youth group. However, far from welcoming Brandon, the church youth group’s motley cast of misfits repeatedly challenge Brandon’s abilities, confidence and resolve as a pastor and teacher.
This film is very clear about the Christian messages it wants to convey, from the sovereignty of God to the immutability of the Gospel. Almost every scene is a teaching moment, whether it is Brandon’s discussions with the youth group, or more casual conversations that the students have with one another outside the classroom.
If there would be any area that needs improvement, it would be the script, which has some of the youth group members abruptly change and suddenly embrace the Gospel message, with seemingly little story-related impetus to do so. This results in the actors’ performances coming across as unnatural, when the real problem may have been the screenplay itself. Perhaps the filmmakers did not think that the movie’s 103-minute runtime was long enough to convey everything they wanted to say, and so eschewed, for the sake of brevity, any scenes that show how each of these characters embraced the Gospel. Unfortunately, this made the movie a bit jarring at times, and does not do the film’s pacing any favors.
Some might call this film preachy, but one could argue that it may actually have been intended to be more instructional than cinematic. Appreciated in this light, it is conceivable that Christian schools, Sunday school programs or, appropriately enough, church youth ministries could find this movie useful for teaching a substantial amount of doctrine in a format that may be more appealing to college or even high school-aged students, particularly visual learners. However, viewers must be mature enough to handle a conflict that arises later in the film, which serves as its turning point, and teachers presenting this movie to their students have to be ready to handle this sensitively.
Despite its rough edges, “Play the Flute” still provides an interesting peek into the more subtle, everyday challenges and issues that pastors and other ministry workers must deal with, as they share the Gospel, and shines a well-deserved spotlight on those whom God has called to “play the pipe.”