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Fairway hazards

Wayward message sinks golf-centered faith film Walking With Herb

Fathom Events

Fairway hazards

If you saw me holding a 5-iron and wearing long white pants and a fancy cap, you might think I was a golfer—until you saw me chop at the ball. Then you’d know I have little game and am clearly unqualified to give golf lessons.

Walking With Herb, about an older man who takes up golf again after 35 years, displays a faith film’s earnestness but repeatedly shanks the gospel into traps and hazards. Jesus comes up only once—in one of four misuses of God’s name. Characters occasionally quote Scripture, but hokey supernaturalism and affirmations of other belief systems should preclude Christians from recommending this film to seeker friends.

Joe Amable-Amo (Edward James Olmos) is a loving husband and father reeling from the deaths of his grandchild and son-in-law. Reversing Job’s story, the tragedies have led Joe to deny God, while his wife keeps the faith. Joe’s also a bank president under pressure to foreclose on the mortgage of a school for homeless children that his daughter, Audrey, runs.

Then, a message pops up on his computer.

“Joe, it’s God. I have chosen you for a special mission.” That mission is to enter the “Golf Championship of the World Entire,” a tournament with a $3 million prize. Fine. Soon after, though, a dog and a dove wink at each other, apparently confirming the message’s divine origin. The dog, wearing a collar with a cross and symbols of other religions, brings Joe a rolled-up note about faith. More winking doves, more dog-borne notes.

Then Herb (George Lopez), donning rainbow pants and urban camouflage, zooms in on a motorcycle. Herb’s an angel (probably) sent by “Al”—that’s Herb’s pet name for the Almighty. Herb caddies Joe’s 18-hole and spiritual revivals, even miraculously guiding Joe’s crooked putts into the hole. (Flashback to Now You See Him, Now You Don’t?) Herb quotes Buddha and the book of Romans, but double-bogeys at Hebrews 11:1.

“Faith is the belief in the right to believe in yourself,” he instructs Joe.

The tournament fills the second half of the film. Joe is paired with highly ranked golfer Archie Borthwick (Billy Boyd). Archie’s mad at the world because he’s never won a tournament.

With little fairway drama, the PG-rated Walking With Herb doesn’t work as a sports film. It sends confusing signals with odd subplots (for example, Audrey’s sudden romance with a Jewish man) and odder messages.

“For I know my redeemer lives,” Herb tells Joe, “and he stands on the golf course.” Is Herb speaking about himself? Or hyping Joe?

Fore! Consider yourself warned.

Bob Brown

Bob is a movie reviewer for WORLD. He is a World Journalism Institute graduate and works as a math professor. Bob resides with his wife, Lisa, and five kids in Bel Air, Md.



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