'Woodlawn' earns rare A+ CinemaScore rating – and mainstream critic praise

by Michael Foust, Guest Reviewer |

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (Christian Examiner) -- The faith-based film "Woodlawn" may not have been the blockbuster that many in the film industry had hoped, but it did achieve something that is rare for any movie: gain an A+ CinemaScore rating and win the praise of mainstream critics.

The Erwin Brothers film did finish in the Top 10, earning $4,002,226 to place it at No. 9, although its per-screen average of ($2,577) trailed other recent faith-based hits, such as "God's Not Dead" ($11,817), "War Room" ($10,001) and "Heaven Is For Real" ($9,318).

But moviegoers loved it – and critics, too.

Moviegoers interviewed by the well-respected CinemaScore exit poll gave it an A+ -- the only film playing this weekend to receive such a grade. By comparison, "Bridge of Spies" earned an A-, "Goosebumps" an A, and "Pan" a B+.

An A+ puts a film in an elite club that includes such movies as "The Blind Side" and "Titanic." The top-grossing film of all time, "Avatar," earned only an A.

Meanwhile, mainstream critics – who typically trash faith films – have warmed to "Woodlawn." Among the seven meanstream critics listed at the popular website RottenTomatoes.com, all seven liked it – giving it a score of 100. That included reviews by the Hollywood Reporter, Los Angeles Times and Variety.

"The film largely succeeds in achieving its modest goals, delivering a feel-good, real-life inspirational story in a mostly engaging fashion," wrote Frank Scheck of the Hollywood Reporter. "With its well-staged gridiron sequences and solid ensemble performances, Woodlawn may even manage to lure viewers away from their televised football games over the next couple of weeks."

Joe Leydon of Variety also liked it.

"The overall narrative mix of history lesson, gridiron action and spiritual uplift is effectively and satisfyingly sustained," he wrote.