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“What happens to a dream deferred?” asks Langston Hughes in his famous poem. But among the many possible results he suggests for a deferred dream, he doesn’t mention what may be the most common one in modern American culture—identity crises. If you’ve ever wished you were someone else or wished your life had turned out as you had once dreamed, at least you can know you are not at all alone. Most people wrestle with such feelings at one time or another, and the central character of Pure Flix’s film, Me Again, is no exception.
Me Again does what viewers have come to expect from Pure Flix, the current leader in high quality, faith-based entertainment. Tackling a real-life issue from a biblical perspective, Me Again takes a comedic approach to the concept of the early mid-life crisis, keeping things clean and entertaining while delivering a meaningful message about purpose, contentment, and God’s providence.
For Pastor Rich Chaplin, “a dream deferred” is what has defined his adult life. He had dreams as a kid, he remembers—expectations of greatness, excitement, success. So how did he go from that to the life he’s stuck in now? A boring pastor with a dull, monotonous, and unimportant existence. Sure, he has a lovely wife and family that he loves, of course, but they’re also part of what’s keeping Rich trapped in this life he never intended for himself.
Thanks to Rich’s ball-and-chain attitude toward his family, his wife, April, has separated from her husband for a time, hoping the action will bring him to his senses. Rich, however, sees the separation as just one more burden and hardship in a life of unhappiness. Even though his trials are mostly self-inflicted, losing the respect of his kids, congregation, and wife leaves Rich desolate, except for his one loyal friend Tony.
Other people have such fantastic lives, Rich thinks. Why can’t he? In a moment of desperation, Rich pleads with God to let him be anyone but himself. [SPOILER WARNING] This request is taken more seriously than Rich intends, as he suddenly enters into the lives of other people, one by one, and experiences a day or moment of being them—not himself. Whether this experience is a dream or not, Rich isn’t sure, but he knows he’s trapped as these people and wants to get out. After all, being a fashion model, an elderly housekeeper, and an obnoxious teenager is not what he had in mind. But does he want out badly enough to want to be himself?
As the series of transformations continues, Rich starts to see that he may be supposed to learn something from these other lives he inhabits. Perhaps something more than an external transformation is really the intent of this experience and what is required before it will end and he can be “me again.”
With Me Again, Pure Flix churns out another family-friendly film that’s well-made and has at its core a strong Christian message. Directors David A.R. White and Jeffrey Peterson can be credited with creating a polished movie and keeping it God-centered. They also do a laudable job of handling a story that is not as strong as some previous Pure Flix films, as it risks stretching the viewers’ suspension of disbelief at times. The film is saved from this precipice by the relatable issues and realistic characters at the heart the story.
These characters are skillfully, though not exceptionally, brought to life by solid actors. White himself gives one of the best showings of the film as Rich, displaying good range as he meets the comedic (his apparent strength) and dramatic demands of the role. He even manages to make Rich likeable, despite the character’s many flaws. A couple “names” are brought in to brighten small roles—notably Della Reese and Bruce McGill. The acting surprise of the film is Logan White. Though she has limited screen time, she turns in her best performance to date, as an emotionally tormented fashion model.
The cinematography is nothing special nor particularly artistic, but still top-quality and on-par with the typical TV movie or big screen romantic comedy. Other production values, in particular the writing, are also high. The screenplay’s strengths are its clever wit, relatable characters, and creative humor.
The comedy, however, is the one area where the film becomes a bit shaky in content. [SPOILER WARNING] Rich’s many transformations land him embodying women two times. When Rich is living the lives of other people, the camera shows him as Rich when viewers are seeing from his perspective and shows him as the people he’s embodying when the audience is watching from the outside (for example, from the viewpoint of his friend Tony). As a result, there are several scenes in which Rich is shown wearing women’s clothing. In addition, Tony eyes the fashion model persona of Rich (only briefly before Rich brings him to his senses) and wants to ask “her” out on a date.
Though these elements may sound severely problematic when described, they’re handled delicately and with a humor that manages to avoid dwelling on anything too harmful. Still, a tightrope is being walked here that would have been better avoided completely, despite the obvious potential for comedy in such scenarios. The film also contains some mature content related to Rich’s teen daughter and her boyfriend—nothing objectionable, but enough to make Me Again inappropriate for young kids (unless parents are prepared to have “the talk” after watching the movie).
Another delicate issue that the filmmakers handle smartly is the idea of God giving a person an experience of living as other people in answer to prayer. Thanks to the repeated hypothesis that Rich’s transformations may have all been a dream, skeptics or those with doctrinal objections should have no reason to be uncomfortable.
Best of all, this plot device is used to communicate a strong message that is thoroughly Christian. Rich needs a jolt better than his wife’s misguided threats of divorce. He gets that through seeing what being someone else would actually be like and understanding others’ desperate need for God. This experience finally allows him to get a clear view of what being himself is really all about. Viewers get to go along for the entertaining ride and learn with Rich that the perfect life is not found in prosperity or self-fulfillment, but rather in embracing God’s plan for one’s life and using it to impact others with His love.
“What happens to a dream deferred?” Me Again shows that with the right, God-enabled attitude, it can blossom into a love and sympathy for others with unstoppable power to change lives.