Kevin Sorbo gives his finest performance to date in “What If…” A review
The faith-based film, What If…, currently airing on gmc and to be released on DVD March 1, offers family entertainment, strong Christian values, and a wholesome message. Directed by Dallas Jenkins and produced by Jenkins Entertainment, the two-hour Television World Premiere also enthralls viewers with a superior performance by its male lead, Kevin Sorbo.
The story opens in a small bus station 15 years prior to its current events as Ben Walker (Sorbo), a seminary graduate, bids farewell to his fiancée, Wendy (beautifully played by Kristy Swanson), to accept a position in a high-powered, metropolitan corporation. They discuss future plans that include establishing a family and congregation in their rural home town from which he is departing. Wendy fears he will leave her behind, but Walker assures her otherwise.
Fifteen years later Walker is a well-respected business executive on the verge of becoming partner at his firm, husband to a shallow trophy fiancée, and proud owner of a new Mercedes Benz. Life is good as he prepares to whisk his present love to Paris when he receives a letter from Wendy’s nonprofit organization with a note from her stating that she’s in town and hopes to see him. He casually gives the note little thought, instructing his assistant to instead send a donation.
While testing the new car, Walker’s Benz leaves him stranded with a blow to the head from its airbag. A grungy tow truck driver (skillfully portrayed by John Ratzenberger) stops to help, but with a special brand of aid: He’s an angel sent by God to “straighten out” Walker’s life.
Following some bickering, Mike the Angel sends Walker to a different world by sucker-punching him in the jaw. A discomfited Walker discovers that not only is he no longer a power executive, but that he has a wife (Swanson) and two daughters (Disney’s Debby Ryan and newcomer Taylor Groothuis). He enters the scene as they prepare for church at which, to his dismay, he is its new pastor.
Confused and agitated, Walker tries to assimilate to his foreign environment, realizing that he continues to fail miserably, something to which he is unaccustomed. He consults Mike who leads him through a labyrinth of advice that presents more questions than answers, including an unpleasant It’s a Wonderful Life moment during which he declares he will regain his corporate status. Mike reclaims his soul with another hit to the face that returns Walker to his alternative, albeit frustrating, life.
Finally, Wendy confronts him with his strange behavior. She poignantly asks if he still likes his family and gives him a leave or stay alternative. He stays and uses his business savvy to help them and the church while peeling away the years like an avocado lover seeking its succulent pit.
Ripe with symbolism, What If… allows Sorbo to excel in his craft, particularly when Walker comforts a dying man whose industry career paralleled his, and the preacher grasps the moment’s irony and significance. Moments later he receives the final test: He is to return to his former life.
Sorbo gives his finest performance to date, commanding an emotional spectrum that spans caustic to compassionate. He approaches God’s sparring match with ease, realizing that life changes, and that to accept His will is to surrender one’s own. He delivers a definitively superb, believable character who begins as “everyman,” becomes someone whom we aspire to be then ends as the person we truly are: kind, caring, and capable of choosing our own destinies.
He is truly inspirational in What If… Sorbo readily sheds his outer layers, recognizable to most people as an action hero, and demonstrates that he remains an incontrovertible force in the industry. Laughter and tears encompass this film, but, most importantly, his excellent portrayal promotes discussion, which I personally welcome.
The message is clear: Despite our attempts and failures at becoming better people, when we walk confidently with God, we no longer need Him to punch us in the face, if you will, to become His faithful servants. And Sorbo personifies that message flawlessly.
(Photos courtesy of Jenkins Entertainment)