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Movie Review – Breakthrough – Not a breakthrough in faith-based films

Movie Review - BreakthroughI do Peetimes for most of the faith-based movies. The Christian production company “PureFlix” turns out some really good faith-based films. Woodlawn comes to mind as an excellent representation of such films. Breakthrough isn’t one of those films. This movie was distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. This movie feels like a cheap attempt to grab some money over Easter Weekend.

The movie lacks decent production values, and I felt that the real life characters were not represented well. There was a lack of chemistry between the main cast members that could have brought the film up a notch or two.

Having been an ER nurse for a very long time, I’ve stood outside an examining room and heard the prayers and the pleas to God to let a loved one live, but to no avail. Often times, afterwards, the prayers turn to anger. My heart breaks for the loved ones who get no answer. Had I have witnessed a medical miracle such as the one we saw in Breakthrough, would it have changed my mind concerning the power of prayer? No. Having been a student of medicine, I know these ‘miracles’ can (and do) happen with medical intervention. It’s just science.

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A very personal note: I did not want to see this movie.

The “all you need is prayer and faith, and all is right with the world again” theme has been a ‘thorn in my side’ (pun intended) for a better part of my life.

I’ll preface this review by telling you I’m the daughter of a Methodist minister. I grew up in the church, hardly ever missed Sunday School, and said my prayers every night.

Then Viet Nam happened.

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My brother, Danny, two years older than me, was my best friend and confidant. When he left for Viet Nam, I prayed day and night that he’d come home safely. Then there were only eight days left before he came home. Oh, and by the way, it was only two weeks until Christmas. I was confident my prayers had been answered. Praise God: Danny’s coming home.

Then came the knock at the door. My brother was not coming home.


During my period of mourning that question was most often answered with the trite comment, ‘It was God’s will’ or ‘God needed another angel in heaven’. The message I took away from this tragedy was that it doesn’t matter how hard you pray or how deep your faith: no one is listening. Or, God had already made up his mind that this remarkable young man would die in a foreign country without his loved ones nearby. Neither answer brought me even the slightest bit of comfort.

Grade: D+

About The Peetimes: I have a recommended Peetime that gives you 4 minutes to get back to the theater — half way through the movie — and an Emergency Peetime giving you only 3 minutes, coming late in the movie. 

There are no extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Breakthrough. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (PG) for thematic content including peril
Genres: Biography, Drama, Religious

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8 responses to “Movie Review – Breakthrough – Not a breakthrough in faith-based films”

  1. BomberBuck Avatar

    First, I’d like to express my condolences to the reviewer on the loss of her brother, and I honor his service to our Country. Now to begin…the “real” movie review is covered in the first two paragraphs. The remaining is just an anti-God screed by a reviewer who has an axe to grind and who confesses she didn’t even want to see the film…though she “does the Peetimes for most of the faith-based movies.” I smell a biased review. I don’t rely on Rotten Tomatoes much, but while the Peetime reviewer gave it a D+, the RT professional reviewers rated it “Fresh” with a 64% and the Audience Score was 78%. The reviewer’s admitted prejudices toward religion (Christianity any way) makes me slightly suspicious that perhaps the Peetimes suggested may not minimize missing important movie moments, but instead mislead folks into leaving during the faith-inspiring moments. I haven’t seen this movie, yet…it’s just a gut feeling.

    1. Grady Shackelford Avatar
      Grady Shackelford

      you are correct, her interpretation of the movie being a “pray and all will be right” was not in this movie at all. in two points also in the movie the part about why save him was addressed and it was not mentioned in the review. the movie was about a mother who believed she was in control and it took a horrible tragedy for her to realize she isn’t. it was also about how many people who did and did not know each other came together and a miracle did happen. note: it was not science as science has no answer for when things happen that should never have happened.. there also is an extra scene at the start of the credits that was not mentioned in the review. it shows the movie photo with the real life photo of the same characters in the movie with a written dialog of what has occurred since the movie. most likely bias was to play as if one would take the religion out of the story it would at least be a b-or c+. it had good transitions, consistent acting and pulled at the heartstrings (see 15 mins and 49 mins into the movie). shame it couldn’t be reviewed without bias

    2. Dear BB,

      First of all, I do thank you so much for your kind words concerning the passing of my brother, Danny. Fifty two years and I still grieve. Enough said about that.

      No, I did not want to see this film. I found the message of the movie to be dishonest, misleading and in poor taste. I do embrace faith-based movies that show us what we can do through hard work, determination, and a belief in someone greater than ourselves giving you strength. However, this movie tried to tell us that if you pray in a way that gets God’s attention and have Facebook on your side God will give you back what you have just lost. Tell that to the child of a dead parent who prayed fervently for mom or dad to live. They can feel unworthy of God’s love and that He’s turned His back on them. So often the child spends the rest of their years trying to prove, in vain, that they are worthy of God’s love, or they just accept the fact that God hates them. Either one is a dangerous way to lead your life.

      That takes me to Breakthrough. The survival of John Smith was pure science. There’s a medical explanation for each step of John’s recovery. Sorry, but that is a fact.

      Lastly, I really need to address the question of my integrity and the integrity of RunPee. When choosing Peetime, we do so within the guideline of our policy to give the user the best movie experience possible. We would never choose a Peetime to mislead the audience. Hopefully, when you do see the movie, you’ll use the RunPee app, and can see that there was nothing misleading in either Peetime. And btw, RT professional critics did not rate this movie ‘Fresh’. In order for a movie to get a ‘Fresh’ from the RT critics is for the movie to have a sustained score of 75% or higher. The 64% from RT is a lower score than my rating of D+, which = 67-69%. In comparison to profession critics I would say that my grade was a bit conservative, for what it’s worth.

      1. BomberBuck Avatar

        Dear RunPee Mom, I hope you had blessed Easter. I still haven’t seen this movie (and it’s not due to your poison-pen review) so I can only go by what I’ve researched for my following comments…In January 2015, 14-year-old John Smith breaks through the ice on a frozen lake and remains submerged for 15 minutes. He had no pulse when emergency workers pulled him from the freezing water; despite almost 30 minutes of CPR, he is PRONOUNCED DEAD. As he lay motionless for nearly an hour in the hospital his mother prayed by his bed, after hearing the prayers of his mother his heart finally started up again. Over the next several days, as his community prayed for him, this young man eventually made a seemingly near-impossible recovery without any neurological impairment.

        You say it’s not a miracle, but I say it certainly sounds miraculous. Things could have gone either way.

        As before, your reply comments betray your anti-faith bias. Dragging your deeply held biases and prejudices into the theater with you and allowing them to influence your movie reviews and ratings does your RunPee fans a disservice. For example, the snide remark about an Easter holiday release was uncalled for as I suspect many/most Christian, faith-based movies are released around Easter (or another religious holiday). It’s called marketing. Captain America was released on International Women’s Day during Women’s History Month, I don’t remember that as being criticized by another RunPee reviewer as a shameless attempt to draw larger crowds. Again, it’s just smart marketing.

        Now to address your Rotten Tomatoes (RT) comment…you wrote, “RT professional critics did not rate this movie ‘Fresh’…indicating I was trying to mislead, or at best, was misinformed. However, I was accurate in my characterization. You incorrectly cited some of the criteria required for “Certified Fresh” status which I never claimed. I only said it was “Fresh” per the description on the RT website:

        “The Tomatometer score represents the percentage of professional critic reviews that are positive for a given film or television show. A Tomatometer score is calculated for a movie or TV show after it receives at least five reviews.
        When at least 60% of reviews for a movie or TV show are positive, a red tomato is displayed to indicate its Fresh status.
        When less than 60% of reviews for a movie or TV show are positive, a green splat is displayed to indicate its Rotten status.

        Certified Fresh status is a special distinction awarded to the best-reviewed movies and TV shows. In order to qualify, movies or TV shows must meet the following requirements…[BB: the criteria you cited in your reply]

        The Audience Score, denoted by a popcorn bucket, is the percentage of users who have rated the movie or TV Show positively.
        When at least 60% of users give a movie or TV show a star rating of 3.5 or higher, a full popcorn bucket is displayed to indicate its Fresh status.
        When less than 60% of users give a movie or TV show a star rating of 3.5 or higher, a tipped over popcorn bucket is displayed to indicate its Rotten status.”

        The comparison of your “D+” rating to the aggregate RT Tomatometer score (then 64, now 65%) is not a valid “Apples to Apples” comparison. Not even close. The RT score represents the percent of critics who gave it a positive review…it is not some sort of attempt to average their individual review “grades.”

        Finally, to provide balance, I’d like to quote the RT “Critics Consensus” on this movie…“Like its lead character, Breakthrough is fiercely focused on faith — but its less subtle elements are balanced by strong performances and an uplifting story.”

        This sounds like a movie I’d like to see.

  2. Both commenters here have expressed disappointment that the reviewer was, in their words, “biased.” I would like to remind people that every review, by everyone ever was biased to some degree. Both commenters were biased when they saw the movie. As Christians they wanted to see a miracle and so that’s what they saw. There’s no shame in that, but it must be acknowledged.

    It is always a challenge to do Peetimes for any movie that we don’t like. For instance, I don’t do Peetimes for horror movies because I don’t care for them. Therefor I can only try my best to imagine how a fan of horror movies would view different scenes and let that guide me in my choices for Peetimes. Fortunately, we have RunPee Sister who is a horror movie fan and does a great job with them.

    RunPee Mom is the closest thing we have to a religion expert. She can see a faith based movie through the eyes of a believer and use that to guide her choices for Peetimes. (In retrospect I should have done the Peetimes for this particular movie because it is deeply personal to RunPee Mom’s past.)

    I’m perfectly fine with anyone questioning our review grades. You have your opinion. We have ours. It’s great when we agree but when we don’t that doesn’t make either one of us right. (I hope everyone understands that opinions aren’t right or wrong.)

    However, to insinuate that she may have deliberately chosen Peetimes in order to devalue the experience a person might get while using the RunPee app is uncalled for. If anyone is going to question RunPee Mom’s integrity then email me ([email protected]) and I will refund any Peecoins you have remaining and you can uninstall the RunPee app.

    1. BomberBuck Avatar


      Thanks for weighing in on this thread. First I apologize for questioning PeeMom’s integrity with respect to Peetime selections. Now, I’d like to correct a couple of wrong assumptions…I haven’t seen this movie yet as mentioned in both of my posts, and I’m a longtime, non-practicing Catholic so I’m actually not deeply invested in this movie. I was just looking for a decent, wholesome-values movie to see with my family, and when I read an obviously biased review—just a couple of cursory sentences in the first two paragraphs followed by an unfair criticism on people with faith–I felt I had to speak out. The subject matter (a religious movie) almost didn’t matter.

      I’m glad you acknowledge having RunPee Mom review this movie was a mistake. Since you mentioned she’s the closest thing to a “religion expert,” I went back and looked at some of her past reviews. When I came to her review of “The Case for Christ” which she gave a C+ and wrote the following, “The Case For Christ is a target-specific movie. That being said, there’s nothing I can say to persuade nor dissuade anyone to see this movie. If you’re a part of the target audience (and you know who you are), then you won’t be disappointed. However, if you’re not a part of the target (and you know who you are), there are a plethora of other movies out there to see.”

      That is the entirety of the review. No discussion of acting, directing, production values, etc. It actually reminded me a line from Brie Larson’s speech at the Crystal Awards last year, “I don’t need a 40-year-old white dude to tell me what didn’t work about A Wrinkle in Time. It wasn’t made for him!” In this case, it’s PeeMom who evidently didn’t think this movie was made for her. I’m not sure how to describe this review, but perhaps the lesson here is that if the reviewer is not up to the task, then no review is preferred to a review like “The Case for Christ” or “Breakthrough” received since it does a disservice to your RunPee fanbase. With respect to “The Case for Christ,” I still don’t know which category I would fall in (targeted or non-targeted audience) since I know nothing about the film other than its title. I was hoping a reviewer would shed some light.

  3. Grady Shackelford Avatar
    Grady Shackelford

    Thank you to the entire RunPee team for the diligence in undertaking the difficult task in providing fair pee times and reviews.
    In my reply, I never mentioned nor insinuated that I was a Christian. This is a personal relationship that does affect some reviewers and could lead to a bias one way or another.

    When I sent my response, I attempted to present a case that from my point of view the rating seemed lower and more deserving of a fairer grade.
    In addition, after further review I feel confident that another reader could see the RunPee viewer score of expectation vs after the movie show that a D+ would appear to be a possibly low end score . Each viewers mileage may vary. My point on bias was in respect to the several line review with minimal criticism of the actual movie. It was not in a subjective manner and then was with a 3x length (of the review) personal backstory of how the reviewer had been personally affected and observations from their life which played into their opinion of the movie itself.
    As you have said, we can agree to disagree on the letter grade, but maybe a clearer explanation of what causes a grade to be an a/b/c/d/f would be helpful. This was done with the pee time FAQ section and maybe it would be helpful for other reviewers as well to provide a consistent score.
    I appreciate the openness to re-evaluate the scoring and the service RunPee provides.

  4. Susanne Avatar

    The ‘mom’ character, played by Chrissy Metz, is named ‘Joyce’ and not ‘Judith’,I believe. (RunPee summary) during peetimes).

    I agree with the second paragraph of the review and as I reviewed it between a 6.5-7.0, my review would only be slightly higher. I felt that the acting (although well seasoned actors were part) was lacking and chemistry lacked.

    I disagree that these miracles can and do happen only scientific intervention.

    I don’t believe that all prayers are answered. I, as a Christian, read the Bible I see many examples that bad things do happen to good, even great, people. I find that prayer is a communication method with my Savior. But I hold no promise that my desires match with His will. Maybe when I get to heaven I can ask Him the purpose of certain decisions, but I suspect, in heaven, when I see my loved ones again, who have moved on before me, it won’t be a concern any longer. All will be known and understood.

    Until then, I believe in miracles. Scientific help is always appreciated and welcomed in my Faith. After all, God did create science and the minds and hands that performed them, along with my fellow Christians who communicate and request, via prayer on my behalf.

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