Preaching in Paradise
Reverend Debbie Laramie (Crystal Bernard - Meet the Santas) loves God and wants to share that love with the congregation of a Dallas church, unfortunately there are those who are not keen on her style of preaching in case it upsets the church's rich patrons. It is why Debbie and her son Hayden (Bobby Edner) are sent to Paradise, Texas where she finds herself with a church congregation who are comfortable in their ways. Fortunately whilst there are those who see Debbie as trouble and fear she will upset things there are those who are glad to have a preacher with passion and conviction.
As a Christian I some times feel that Christian cinema can be the most frustrating genre going, take "Welcome to Paradise" as here is an entertaining drama which could appeal to a much bigger audience than those who are already Christians yet it ends up feeling like a collection of set pieces. Now for some being a series of set pieces won't be an issue but as someone who has watched thousands of movies I like a story to drive a movie and connect those set pieces which is where this comes up short. And that leads to my frustration as "Welcome to Paradise" gets close to working as a thought provoking movie for a mass audience rather than just Christian entertainment but what is missing ends up weakening it.
So what do I mean by "Welcome to Paradise" feels like a series of set pieces? Well in a way I mean cliches. As such we have Debbie who is a widow with a teen son and she is struggling to deal with him, on top of that her son, Hayden, is embarrassed by his mum being a preacher. Then there are the homeless people who Debbie wants to bring in to the church and of course treat every one as an equal as the bible teaches us and so these homeless people are good hearted and are not useless. And then of course we have those locals who don't like the changes Debbie is making and in doing so have their comfortable Christianity challenged. Don't get me wrong as the scenarios in the movie often draw on the teachings in the bible but because the story doesn't connect it all in a strong way they ends up feeling too cliche, and that includes an event which threatens to curtail Debbie's mission in Paradise.
What this all boils down to is that "Welcome to Paradise" has as many positives as it does negatives and for a movie which has a light touch and a cheerful, fun appeal those negatives are frustrating as this could have been a Christian movie with mass appeal.