According to director Corbin Bernsen (yes, the former LA Law actor known, according to his IMDB bio, for his “blond and brash, rugged, hirsutely handsome good looks, impish grin and aggressive courting style”) the idea for Christian Mingle: The Movie (which hit DVD last month and aired on UP TV February 8th) didn’t come from Christian Mingle, it came from Bernsen. To hear Bernsen tell it, he just thought that a Christian Mingle movie was something that should exist, so he approached the Christian Mingle people, and they were kind enough to let him use the name. Pro tip: if you don’t want people to think your movie is a paid advertisement for Christian Mingle, maybe don’t call it Christian Mingle: The Movie.
Though you might not know him beyond his aggressive courting, Bernsen has actually directed four previous faith-based films™. He has been described as a born-again Christian in various bios, but when asked the question directly, he tends to reject the label. He speaks earnestly and fairly unobnoxiously about his faith, and in general, sounds like a more accessible alternative to Kirk Cameron, the kind of guy who’d tell you you can believe in God without hating queers or thinking bananas refute evolution. Basically, he doesn’t seem like a heartless profiteer looking to pimp the same horseshit cultural divide, and I tend to think that’s reason enough not to just sh*t on him out of hand. A decent film with a Christian message? Let’s at least admit the possibility.
A kinder, better, gentler kind of Christian, the kind you could bring home to your agnostic mom. I like that. Was his film still a chore to sit through? Oh sweet mother of God yes.
Bernsen described his idea for Christian Mingle: The Movie thusly:
I was talking with my business partner, thinking, “Why can’t there be Christian movies that are faith based, but are just genre films? Instead of the educational, hit-people-over-the-head-with-Jesus movies every time, why not a romantic comedy?”
A fine idea (I guess?), but it seems that in combining the home-spun Christian indie with the soft rock of film genres, Bernsen has created a supernova of caucasity, a movie so white it’d make a Lands End catalog look like Jet Magazine. It stars Party of Five‘s Lacey Chabert as Gwyneth Hayden (a name so white it makes Rooney Mara sound like Quvenzhane Wallis), a single gal with a great job, some gabby girlfriends, and a sassy black secretary. But NO MAN, wouldn’t you know it. Her dishy GFs tell her she’s going to die alone if she doesn’t settle, in typical high-larious rom-com fashion. She works (“works”) as a marketing professional (of course) at the “Maritime Advertising Agency,” under head honcho Stephen Tobolowsky (of Ned Ryerson fame), who shows up to work in a captain’s hat, wears ties with tiny anchors on them, and summons his employees to work with pronouncements like “Clear the decks!” It’s a theme, get it? That’s just good clean comedy writin’ right there.
After being disappointed with the usual dating options, represented solely by a set-up date with a guy who keeps looking past her at the other girls at the bar and makes conversation like “I love stinky cheese. Clogs the pipes, but…”, Gwyneth sees a Christian Mingle commercial on TV one night and decides to take the plunge. Her friends are skeptical, but she assures them “It’s a very popular and legit dating site.” Smash cut to her meet cute with a lost Manning brother played by Jonathan Patrick Moore, the suitably boring named “Paul Wood.” And we’re off!
Now, a note on styling. Some months back, I attended a Halloween party where one of the guys there had dressed as a “basic bitch” – big, done-up wig, dangly earrings, Lululemon pants tucked into Ugg boots, robe top with sash cinch, big sunglasses, and a Starbucks latte cup as a prop. It was uncanny how much he predicted Lacey Chabert’s character in Christian Mingle, the unsatirical basic bitch come to life. If it seems unfair to focus so much on styling, well, facade is really all there is. This entire movie feels like it was filmed inside an IKEA show room. The characters aren’t people, they’re catalog representations of middle class whiteness.