I’m in Love with a Church Girl has all the elements of an entertaining movie: blazing guns, beautiful faces, drugs and alcohol, love and death—but without the gore, the bad language, and the sex. That’s because the real drama is main character Miles Montego’s born-again experience: from ex-drug dealer to straight citizen, sin to repentance.
Writer and executive producer Galley Molina could have glamorized the thug life. He has the cast for it after all. Jeff Atkins, better known as rapper Ja Rule, stars as Miles, and Adrienne Bailon, of Cheetah Girls fame, co-stars as Vanessa Leon, the titular “church girl” who leads Miles to salvation. But the film rather focuses on Miles’ gradual transformation from drug lord to church pastor—just as Molina’s own life played out.
The FBI agent investigating Miles describes him perfectly: “He’s smart, rich, and good-looking, but I don’t think I’d want to marry him off to my daughter.” Vanessa’s mother senses it instinctively the moment she meets him. “So ... what church do you go to?” she asks him, eyes narrowed and arms folded.
Despite Molina’s intimacy with the story, the characters fall a bit flat—most disappointingly, Vanessa, though not for the lack of Bailon’s acting talent. The woman who won and turned an ex-trafficker’s heart to Christ deserves a better script, but Vanessa is a “church girl” without much spiritual or character depth. She is the clichéd girlfriend who drags her boyfriend around shopping and gives female rivals ostentatious look-downs.
But Church Girl (rated PG) wraps up with a battle scene—Miles storms into church and stands knuckle-fisted before a giant mosaic of Jesus praying on the Mount of Olives—that’s wholly satisfying.
There’s just enough “new believer” humor in Church Girl to bring a smile to any Christian who has been there before, as well as questions and doubts that any sinner needs to go through before understanding the full magnanimity of grace.