Reviewed by: Ken James
|Featuring:||Carman, Michael Nouri, Patricia Manterola, Jeremy Williams, Robert Catrini|
Welcome to the City of Angels where Orlando Leone (Christian singer Carman Licciardello), former olympic cruiserweight boxing champion turned preacher, runs an innercity youth center and church. Ten years past the prime of his glory days, Orlando finds his ministry dream slipping away as he is unable to obtain the millions needed for the building of a new youth center that both him and his late father envisioned. what’s a preacher to do… start a building fund campaign? This church is anything but affluent considering the location and church attendees. But a proposal comes his way that just might help out the situation a bit…
As it turns out, Orlando’s estranged brother Freddie (Michael Nouri, real-life spouse to Roma Downey of “Touched By An Angel” fame) is the always-by-his-side lawyer for current boxing cruiserweight champion bad-boy Keshon Banks (Jeremy Williams). Through some underhanded blackmail (is there any other kind?), Orlando is cornered into a heavily promoted fight after a highly publicized night where Orlando, moonlighting as a hotel security guard, punches-out a drunken Keshon at a rowdy hotel party.
Early on the film we meet a striking latina named Allia (Spanish singer turned actress Patricia Manterola, who isn’t shy about showing off her figure). She is pre-teen Cesar’s (Romeo Fabian) hardworking mom who is obviously concerned that her son is hanging out with the wrong kind of friends. Cesar is caught with another boy vandalizing Orlando’s car outside the church. In return for the destruction he caused, he must work at the youth center. (Why the other juvie is let off is unclear.) And thus Orlando and Allia begin seeing each other and eventually become engaged.
Stepping out of the story for a bit, let’s look at some of the controversy surrounding “Carman: The Champion.” First of all, we’ll give Carman the benefit of the doubt. We know he has a heart for ministry as can be seen in his Christian music, videos, and evangelistic crusades/concerts. I understand his vision in producing this film is to hit a genre of youth who wouldn’t be caught dead watching a “Christian” film. And “Christian” “Carman: The Champion” ain’t (though this film is part of a massive new campaign for Carman that includes a new tour, albumn, and image). Keshon is seen filming a commercial for “Whoop Ass” beer, his bodyguard/assistant says “hell” as a profanity in one scene, there’s plenty of cleavage from Allia, including a relationship built more out of physical attraction then spiritual sense (granted, Christians are “human” too), plenty of violent fight scenes, some drug and alcohol content, etc. While all of this could have been overlooked, a dangerous message is promoted when 40 million dollars of gambling money is given to Carman after his much publicized fight is won. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a problem with that message. [See our answer to “Should Christians be involved with lotteries or other forms of gambling?”]
So maybe you’re thinking “there’s gotta be some springboards for evangelistic discussion”. that’s what I was hoping for too, but unfortunately I didn’t notice too many opportunities. (Help me out if I’m missing some.) We do learn that Cesar’s father wanted nothing to do with him or Allia after learning of her pregnancy while Allia was in the church youthgroup he assisted with. Perhaps Carman is trying to show that there are some “Christians” (both true and false) who make serious mistakes and may act quite hypocritical. Since then she’s stayed away from church, but this is a good point of discussion that it’s a weak argument to not accept the message of Jesus just because some people who claim to follow him don’t. [See our answer to “Why would I want to be a Christian judging from all the hypocrisy in the church?”].
Despite the strong acting, quality production value, good soundtrack (if you’re into Skillet, KJ52, etc.), and the portrayal of Christians as real people with real emotions and problems (a much-needed message), “Carman: the Champion” will offend too many Christians and doesn’t really have enough spiritual input to offer to today’s troubled youth. “The Champion” may help to boost Carman’s profile and bring in some who otherwise would never hear the gospel. And if only one turns his heart to Jesus, then perhaps this effort was worthwhile afterall. Anyone who walks in the Lord must agree that our God is a God of many surprises.