Hollywood tends to ignore or downplay Christian themes.
So when the film I Can Only Imagine, a Christian movie about the story behind the popular song from the band MercyMe, did well in theaters, it was a surprise to mainstream movie critics who tried to undermine the film’s appeal. In an ironic sense, the success of I Can Only Imagine was enhanced by the fact that it beat the LGBT film, Love Simon, at the box office over the weekend of March 17. I Can Only Imagine pulled in $17 million, while Love, Simon made $11.7 million.
Wait, so audiences would rather see a Christian film than a propaganda film about a homosexual high school romance? Short answer: yes.
According to Roadside Attractions co-president Howard Cohen, the financial success of I Can Only Imagine was a surprise. He told Variety, “We knew that it was going to do well but we never expected a $17 million opening.”
The film stars Dennis Quaid as the troubled father who inspired the “most played radio single in Christian music history.” In an interview, Quaid explained the redemption of his character: “God will give you the path, he’ll show you the path.”
Critics have shredded the message of I Can Only Imagine over the past week, calling out the film for its supposed lack of diversity and claimed that it suffered from “a terminal case of self-importance.” Jesse Hassenger wrote on the A.V. Club that the film was so white that “Even the sky looks Caucasion.” Frank Scheck wrote on the Hollywood Reporter that “I Can Only Imagine runs less than two hours, but it feels like a lifetime.” Robert Abele at the Wrap called it a “One-Note Redemption Tale.”