Billy the Early Years is a film about the early life of charismatic preacher Billy Graham. The movie was released in theaters on October of 2008, and was released on DVD in March 2010.
Billy Graham has done much for the sake of the gospel, and he is a highly admired man. He is also one of the most well-known evangelists of our time. And while I don’t necessarily agree with every statement he’s ever made, I did appreciate him as a Christian Evangelist. I also greatly enjoyed many of his sermons.
So when my wife and I saw advertisements for the movie in 2008, we considered going. However, we never made it to the theaters to see the film. No big deal, because we knew we could eventually watch it on DVD. Unfortunately, it took FOREVER for the Billy the Early Years DVD to be released.
We waited and waited. Finally, just yesterday, my wife and I rented this movie from Netflix. So is Billy the Early Years a good movie? Here is my own personal opinion on it (and my wife agrees).
My Personal Review of Billy the Early Years
As the movie stopped spinning in our DVD player, I looked at my wife and said, “Wow, that was not a very good movie at all.” She agreed. This was not a very good movie on Billy Graham, did not portray religion in a positive or inspiring way, and it was awkwardly silly at times. I can’t express how disappointed I was after waiting some 2 years to see this film.
The movie bounced from topic to topic, and did not thoroughly explain why Billy Graham became a preacher, or what struggles he endured. We are given a few awkward scenes, which were terribly acted, that gives us some clue. But it did not really capture the emotion behind his decisions.
It had very corny stories within the movie. It did touch on some struggles and big moments of his life, but not nearly enough to satisfy the average film-goer. Especially in the very short 98 minutes. In retrospect, this film should have been at least 2 1/2 hours in length to properly tell the powerful and inspiring story of Billy’s rise to fame.
Furthermore, this was one of those movies where you see the previews and think, “That seems like an interesting movie.” And then, you see the movie and realize the best parts were the parts in the previews! Ugh. The absolute best parts of the movie can be seen in the actual previews themselves. Nearly all other scenes are corny, irrelevant, or silly fluff.
The acting was horrendous. The man portraying Billy Graham did not make a believable interpretation. Billy is portrayed as a clumsy man with almost no charisma. I have never seen Billy act like that. He is always calm, reserved, intelligent, witty, and charismatic (even in his real early years).
Martin Landau also stars in this movie (as the dying Charles Templeton). His scenes were very awkward to watch as well. He yells at people randomly (I suppose to show his battle with Alzheimer’s). I found myself hoping his scenes would hurry and end so they could get back to the real story.
The movie did finally get a bit interesting, but then, the credits began scrolling! Seriously. The movie was rather boring and silly for the first hour and fifteen minutes, and just as it started to pick up, he gives a short sermon (which was fairly good) and it goes off.
I was in shock. This is what I have been dying to watch for the past 2 years? This is the best they could do? Hm. I can see why it didn’t do very well at the box office.
Conclusion: Billy the Early Years is Disappointing
I do appreciate every one’s effort to make a movie on Billy Graham. He certainly did have an interesting life, and a story worth sharing. However, this movie failed to capture that journey. It was short on details, bad on acting, and did not draw me into the story at all.
I was left feeling disappointed. I had waited nearly 2 years to see this movie. I wanted to see how he became such a great preacher. I wanted to see the struggles he endured, the emotions he felt, and more. Unfortunately, this movie did a poor job at telling us about that.
If you want to know more about those things, I suppose you can read some books about him (check your local library). But this movie will probably not satisfy anyone with a serious interest in Billy Graham’s journey.
I think this movie failed in 2 ways:
- It failed to effectively tell a fascinating (and true) story of how a “nobody” became the world’s most famous and adored evangelist.
- It failed to spread the gospel in an effective way. I was frustrated with the way religion (and God) was portrayed in the film (as if it is all based on blind faith, and felt disingenuous).