Christian Mingle Has a Movie Coming Out And It Look Bonkers
You're probably aware of what Christian Mingle is and what it's about. But if somehow you haven't seen one of their cloying TV commercials, it's a dating site. And it's aimed at a specific demographic: devout Christians who are looking for a personal relationship with someone other than Jesus for awhile, with maybe a little light snake-handling on the side.
At any rate, Christian Mingle happens to also be the name of a movie that's coming out in October, and director Corbin Bernsen (yes, that Corbin Bernsen) insists that the movie is "not an ad or paid promotional piece for the dating website." But as far as we can tell, hoo boy, is that a load of bullshit. As much as Arnie Becker would like to deny the fact that this movie is one long commercial for a site that helps religious people thump one another instead of their Bibles, let's take a look at why that just might be exactly what it is.
It's You've Got Mail, Only More In-Your-Face and Stupid
The 1998 movie You've Got Mail also had a title that was clearly a direct reference to an existing product: the now-quaint inbox voice alert from AOL. Sure, it was a blatant tie-in, and though there was definitely an outside corporate influence on the film, nobody left the theater feeling like they were duped. Even if it was one of the more obvious examples of brand placement at the time, AOL executives weren't exactly there in the theater singing the praises of Netscape and flinging discs out into the audience (like they did with the nation's mailboxes). The association was there, but everyone involved pretty much kept their mouths shut about it. But Christian Mingle, from all appearances, lays their message on thick.
"And lo, the Lord did say unto his flock, that to mingle is divine,
and those that mingle shall surely enter into the kingdom of Heaven."
What's more, You've Got Mail was a good movie to watch (if you were stuck on an airplane and Sleepless in Seattle killed your parents). Every indication thus far is that Christian Mingle will be ... something other than good. For starters, Bernsen isn't the only fading luminary from decades past involved. While You've Got Mail featured timely superstars Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, Christian Mingle stars Lacey Chabert, whom you may remember from Party of Five, in which she played second fiddle to Jennifer Love Hewitt's boobs. Or you might remember her from Mean Girls, where she played fourth fiddle to Lindsay Lohan's last good role. The movie also features John O'Hurley (J. Peterman from Seinfeld) and David Keith, whose last major movie appearance was in Daredevil. Morgan Fairchild also appears, non-ironically.
Even more egregiously, while You've Got Mail benefited from a heartwarming story line created by acclaimed writer/director Nora Ephron, the Christian Mingle crew seems to have settled for pilfering every worn-out movie trope known to mankind. In fact ...
The Trailer May Have Set the All-Time Record for Cliches
As far as original ideas go, the trailer implies that such sinful thoughts must be an abomination before God, since the story appears to never deviate from employing the kind of overworked plot devices that would give your great-grandmother eye-rolling cramps. First off, we have Chabert playing the impossibly pretentiously named Gwyneth Hayden. She's a beautiful young woman, living in the big city. Things seem to be going well for her, because ...
But she still looks unhappy! How the fuck?
She spends the first 10 minutes on Reddit, posting about how men don't like nice girls and are only into asshole women.
Aha, that explains it. She snivels about the woeful lack of suitable men to have SEX IN THE CITY with, commiserating with a group of three friends, while they go shopping, hang out at bars, and visit pastry shops.
"I remind myself of Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda, so you three have to be Jerry, George, and Kramer."
She receives sage advice from a sassy black friend.
"Thank you, Oprah."
"Don't call me Oprah." -actual dialogue
But at the end of the day, it seems she's destined to become an old maid, working at ... whatever the fuck her job is. All we know is that it involves a globe, a U.S. map, and fruit.
"My job is apparently a high-school algebra problem."
On a whim, she decides to fill out a profile on (you guessed it!) ChristianMingle.com, whereupon she meets a Ned Flanders doppelganger named Paul. They hit it off! There's just one problem: she's not actually a Christian. In fact, the whole concept of Christianity is such a mysterious conundrum to her that she goes to a bookstore and "hilariously" reads Christianity for Dummies (even though there's clearly a laptop on her desk at work, and we know she has Internet access because that's what got her into this wacky mess in the first place). She decides to act like a holy roller and entice Paul with her faux-Christian wiles, leading to more conflict, and eventually Paul discovers her blasphemous chicanery. There's so much unbridled zaniness going on here that not just one, but two record-scratch moments are required over the course of only two and a half minutes.
One can only assume a happy ending is in the cards, but how will it all play out? I guess we'll have to watch the movie. Actually, no, because ...
The Trailer Gives Away the Entire Fucking Plot
The general rule of thumb in Hollywood is, if you want people to hand over their money to see your movie, don't condense the entire thing into three minutes and show it as a trailer. Christian Mingle, in what might be its one act of originality, gives the distinct impression that the people behind it may in fact not give one turbulent shit about making an actual movie at all. Even the official synopsis leaves nothing to the imagination whatsoever. If you bothered to read it, you'll have noticed how there was no teaser like "Whatever in the world will poor Gwyneth do now?" or "Will Gwyneth finally find true love, or is she doomed to the cavernous pits of a fiery hell?" Nothing like that. They tell you the ending. Now, we all hate disingenuous trailers, and honesty is certainly the best policy, but did they have to spell everything out like Cliffs Notes? Why even pay for a ticket at this point? Just look, we have:
Act I: establish the character and her needs to get the plot rolling.
Gwyneth Hayden is a 30-something marketing executive with a top-notch career, killer wardrobe, dream apartment and great friends. She thinks the only thing missing is a man. In a moment of inspired desperation, she fills out a profile on the dating website ChristianMingle.com hoping to find Mr. Right.
She was already banned for lying on JDate and BlackPeopleMeet.
Act II: raise the stakes, add conflict. Hit a low point.
However, Gwyneth's attempts at impressing her dream guy end in disaster when he calls her out on her "faux faith."
Act III: personal growth, resolution.
In an honest realization, she sees her superficial life for what it really is, and she's driven to create a personal relationship with God. In the end, He delivers on the true desires of her heart: "life-changing" love.
They even show you the last scene of the movie: Gwyneth gives up her high-profile career to go teach kids in Mexico or some shit. The laptop you saw at her fruit-laden desk at the start? It's there in the classroom now, along with a Christmas tree, presumably because the budget didn't allow for a choir singing "Amazing Grace" in the background with CGI sunbeams to further maximize the overbearing symbolism.
"Ponchos are the only thing Latin boys wear, right?" -costume designer
In the end, Gwyneth has an epiphany and learns a valuable lesson, which apparently is "give money to ChristianMingle.com." Mostly because ...
Yes, This Is a Corporate Ploy
We certainly don't want to imply that there's anything disingenuous going on, but here's the folks at Christian Mingle posting the trailer on their YouTube page like it's just some new film they happened to stumble across:
1,625 was also the budget.
Just so that you're aware, Christian Mingle is owned by Spark Networks, a corporation whose stock in trade is hookup sites. They've pretty much cornered the market on niche dating, with sites like JDate and Military Singles, to appeal to every type of lonely-hearted sap in the world with access to a computer.
Not too long ago their main shareholders, Osmium Partners, sent out an angry company memo regarding profits last year and a lack of innovation:
Dear Fellow Shareholders,
Osmium Partners is Spark Networks' largest shareholder, beneficially owning 14.2 percent of shares outstanding and having been a shareholder since 2008. We are highly concerned about our investment -- and the investments of all shareholders -- under the current Board's leadership, due, in our view, to the Company's poor results, a lack of accountability, and a lack of capital at risk in the form of Spark shares. We believe immediate and decisive action is required in order to put the Company on a trajectory for better governance and value creation.
Soon after, in a happy coincidence, Christian Mingle teamed up with Bernsen's production company. Faith-Ã‚Âbased movies seem to be enjoying a recent popularity, so the opportunity must have seemed especially ripe to make a film that cashes in on that trend while touting Christian Mingle's ability to offer boning opportunities to Christ enthusiasts. Specifically, by having the protagonist watch one of their TV commercials.
If a different late-night channel had been on, this would have been a movie about her trying to nail George Foreman.
She meets a man who basically is a walking plug for online dating, if your idea of a perfect partner happens to be a milquetoast, 1950s stereotype of a "square." The filmmakers make sure to mention just how Gwyneth's dreams came true in the end. It's all thanks to the serendipitous existence of their product: "This is weird, isn't it? It's a weird way to meet somebody! But the stuff between never really changes: family, joy, our love for the Lord." If there was ever a more perfect opportunity to add a third record scratch, we can't think of it.
Open your heart to the Lord, and favorable NASDAQ returns will surely follow!
For another film you won't believe somebody thought was a good idea, see the gritty Santa Claus reboot in 4 Reasons This New Movie Is Everything Wrong With Hollywood. And check 4 Creepy Dating Apps That Actually Exist for further Internet dating tools that deserve their own crappy movies.