Let There Be Light (2017), Kevin Sorbo and Sean Hannity’s idea of a good movie
Easter is this week, and the movies that come to mind for many during this holiday are (naturally) It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown as well as religious-based ones like The Robe, The Ten Commandments, and Ben-Hur. Those films came from big studios during the 1950s, but, by the end of the ’60s, screenplays which touched on such subjects became few and far between.
Of course, one person who’s been whining about this in recent years is Kevin Sorbo, who’s stated that the only reason he never made the A-list is because he’s a practicing Christian, although, last I heard, Carrie Underwood (a practicing Christian herself) is still enjoying a nice career.
To that end, Sorbo made it a point to not only star in but direct Let There Be Light, which was co-written by his real-life spouse Sam Sorbo and financed by political commentator Sean Hannity, who appears as himself in the film.
The movie begins with footage of the devastation of 9/11 before cutting to a debate between atheist Dr. Sol Harkens (Sorbo) and a Christian preacher. Right from the start, Sorbo wastes no time torturing us with his ham acting as Sol rips into the preacher as a means of promoting his book, Aborting God. He also gains the rapturous applause of the audience (yeah, like an audience would constantly cheer for just one side in a debate) by saying that he became an atheist when cancer took his young son from him. Sol also says that nobody ever committed genocide in the name of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll (tell that to Charles Manson).
At his apartment, Sol is drowning his sorrows in booze, of course, because he can’t hurt anyone doing that.
We next see that his oh-so-nice lifestyle has led to his estrangement from his wife Katy (Sam Sorbo) when he goes to her place to pick up their other two sons (played by the couple’s real-life sons Braeden and Shane). Katy, who’s Christian, expresses her disapproval of how Harkens basically used their son’s death to get rich. When he snidely says that it pays the bills, Katy asks who pays the emotional bills. Everyone watching this, I assume.
Katy takes their younger son Conner to a friend’s birthday party, while Sol attempts to spend time with their eldest, Gus. The kid asks for his dad to sign a permission slip which would allow him to go on a trip to Haiti to help build a water system. Sol just laughs at this, but I guess Gus couldn’t just ask for his mom’s signature on the thing and spare himself the trouble of enlisting his blowhard dad in his wish to do something meaningful.
Sol is next seen at a cocktail party in honor of, naturally, him and his book. There’s even a drink named for him called the Harken Hedonist (name one other author who has a drink named for them). We also see that he has a Russian girlfriend who’s a model, because if there’s one thing Andromeda drilled into our skulls, it’s that all women find Sorbo irresistible. But his date is as annoyed with Sol as we are by now, because she says she’s not familiar with his attempts at humor when he sings “It’s My Party”. We also know she’s Russian not by her accent, but when Sol says, “Well, I’m sorry I don’t know any Russian Top 40.”
But Sol still gets praise from his agent Norman (Daniel Roebuck) and his publicist Tracee (Donielle Artese). As they tell Sol’s girlfriend to get lost, Tracee says that she may be able to get him an interview with Diane Sawyer, because his public statement of the church being like ISIS (yep, that 9/11 footage was there for a reason) is going viral. Norman even suggests a t-shirt saying just that. But Sol is too busy indulging in the booze he so loves, and bolts out after his girlfriend is smart enough to dump him, saying that she has a photo shoot.
Sol continues to drink on his drive home as he chats with Norman. But his drunk state leads to him crashing into a construction site. He finds himself in a tunnel surrounded by images of himself with his children. His late son Davey appears to him saying, “Let there be light!” As they embrace, Davey also tells his dad that he has to go back because it’s not his time yet, although Sol says he wants to stay with him.
At the hospital, Norman and Tracee are telling reporters that Sol isn’t dead. In his hospital room, Sol is informed by a doctor that he has a concussion and a blood clot that could potentially cause a stroke, but he still has a chance of recovery if he gives up the booze (good luck there). But the doctor notes that Sol was dead for four minutes. Sol tells Norman and Tracee that he saw Davey. But Norman poo-poos this, since it could lose them money if such a renowned atheist says he saw something after dying. And Katy is naturally pissed upon hearing that Sol drove drunk.
Sol returns home, and you guessed it, hits the booze again. On the bright side, the TV says that his Russian girlfriend has found happiness with another man. The next morning, Tracee arrives with pastries along with thoughts on his next appearance. That appearance ends up not doing much for Sol, as he breaks down when he tells Katy (who’s in the audience) about seeing Davey.
So we now get Sorbo’s Oscar montage of crying as he returns to the hospital and meets a nurse who loves his book (enough already!). After indulging in more booze, Katy stops by his place (where we see a poster of Sol with the word “Hercules” underneath—yes, Sorbo, we know you played that role). He tells her he doesn’t know what to do now that he’s had this experience, so she suggests he go to a priest. That priest turns out to also be a former mobster who agrees to baptize Sol, making him a born-again Christian. This delights Katy and their boys, and naturally annoys Norman, who soon cuts off ties with Sol as he slowly but surely states that his experience has changed his beliefs.
Soon enough, Sol is even rekindling his relationship with Katy. They even agree to get married again. But bad news comes when Katy has a seizure and goes to the hospital, where she’s subsequently diagnosed with cancer.
But happily, this doesn’t stop her and Sol from walking down the aisle again (with the great Dionne Warwick in attendance, no less). They also receive an offer from Sean Hannity to start up an app called “Let There Be Light”, which will encourage people to shine their cell phone lights into the sky at night, so they’ll be visible from space.
At Christmas time, the Harkens head up this campaign. Many people partake as Katy quietly dies in Sol’s arms. The film ends with a quote from the Book of Matthew, along with the suggestion to text someone with “#LetThereBeLight” and tell them to download the app.
This film certainly has good intentions. The moments where Katy gives her family reassurance after her diagnosis are touching, and who wouldn’t want a legend like Dionne Warwick to sing at their wedding? But it would’ve been nice to know what Sol did after Katy passed. Did he return to his atheist ways, or did he continue on the path of faith? I certainly appreciate the use of tragic irony in movies, but if the purpose of Let There Be Light was to be uplifting, the ending certainly could’ve done a better job at doing that.
The film God’s Not Dead, which also starred Sorbo, was rightfully criticized on this site for basically saying that you suck if you’re not Christian. This film doesn’t quite go that far, I’m happy to say. However, like that film, it doesn’t do very much to explain just why Christianity has endured for so long. It’s not enough to say that ISIS is bad, or to have Sean Hannity say that there will be resistance, or to namedrop Chick-Fil-A. If you want to make a film that champions Christianity (and lest anyone thinks I’m biased, I make it a point to attend church weekly), one must illustrate why people should. According to this film, there are only three kinds of people in the world: Christians, atheists, and ISIS.
A big reason films such as The Robe and The Ten Commandments are viewed as classics is that they give reasons why so many have followed Christianity over the centuries. Charles Schulz referenced the Bible numerous times during the fifty-year run of Peanuts, but it was never in the same heavy-handed way as this film. Heck, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade did a better job championing Christianity than this film, and that was a freaking action movie!
Another thing that sinks this film is how everyone only praises Sol, whether he’s an atheist or Christian. The only one who actually doesn’t is Sol’s agent Norman, who has an annoying habit of calling everyone “Darling” (which I can’t help but wonder if it’s a reference to Sorbo’s own homophobia, especially since he directed this movie). Hence, this film can been seen as being as much a love letter to Sorbo as Andromeda was.
A film with this premise has the potential to be great, but if you want something uplifting for Easter, it would be better to stick with Snoopy dancing with bunnies or Indy reconnecting with his old man.