Hope has a name, and apparently it’s “Joshua.” That’s what the residents of a small town discover when a mysterious stranger (Tony Goldwyn) comes into a small town and proceeds to change the lives of everyone around him. He starts small, by first setting out to rebuild a church and then carrying a big log across town all by himself, the latter causing much excitement and amazement among the townsfolk. But that feat of seemingly superhuman strength is just a warm-up for the real miracles: restoring a blind woman’s sight and even bringing a man back from the dead.
Could it be that Joshua is the second coming of Jesus Christ? That the film is produced by an outfit called Epiphany Films and is based on a novel by a Father Joseph Girzone should be an easy tip off. That should also be a tip off as to how overblown and (bad pun intended) preachy the proceedings get. I have no objection to films whose aim is to reaffirm religious faith, but more often than not these films engage in Bible-thumping overkill, and “Joshua” is no exception; any attempts at nuance given by the capable cast (which also includes Stacy Edwards as a young widow and F. Murray Abraham in Salieri mode as a priest who questions Joshua and his unique talents) is drowned out by director Jon Purdy’s sledgehammer sap, which commonly manifests itself by way of Christian pop star Michæl W. Smith’s maudlin instrumental and song score.
Purdy, screenwriters Keith Giglio and Brad Mirman (the latter of whom also wrote — yes — the sleazy Madonna sextravaganza “Body of Evidence”), and the others behind “Joshua” obviously mean well, but their treacly tactics ultimately undermines their intent. If they really have that much belief in their message of faith and hope, then they should have trusted its power enough so as to exercise restraint. There’s a fine line between inspiration and manipulation, and from its first frame, “Joshua” crosses it and never looks back.