The rapper Ja Rule has had an undistinguished career in film so far – a compulsory berth in the Scary Movie franchise and small parts in actioners like The Fast and the Furious and Assault on Precinct 13. In his first starring role, he has cause to bellow what sounds like a ready-made action-movie catchphrase – “You wanna send me to hell? Book the flight!” – but in fact, he’s in conversation not with some Michael Bay baddie, but God.
God co-stars in this faith-based, po-faced melodrama; he also, according to the opening credits, served as “executive producer.” Screenwriter Galley Molina based the script on his own evolution from drug trafficker to man of faith, nudged along the journey by the love of a devout Christian. I mean no disrespect to Molina’s personal troubles and triumphs, but a lot got lost in the translation. I’m in Love With a Church Girl is not unambitious: It crams into its two hours terminal illness, money laundering, a DEA sting, clubbing, a prolonged coma, and lots of Bible study. But the action – punishingly turgid, spread-it-on-a-cracker cheesy – feels inauthentic, ginned up only to promote the film’s come-to-Jesus messaging, and to call the acting amateurish does a disservice to hard-working amateurs everywhere.