It ain’t easy for young straight women in their early thirties to find a man who’s husband material. Naturally, then, after exhausting every dating website option you could think of, that desperate gang of gals might turn to, say, religion-catfishing on a site like Christian Mingle. But—then—the twist! What if you fall in love with a man who can only be described as a bland version of Ned Flanders? Sounds like a horrible fate, right? Not so! Or, at least, not in the minds of the execs at Spark Network, the owners of christianmingle.com and, yes, the straight-to-video-on-demand movie of the same name. (No conflict of interest here.) And so, dear reader, I watched Christian Mingle (2016), likely the first and hopefully the last rom-com based on a faith-based dating website.
I was alerted to the existence of the movie by Corbin Bernsen (former L.A. Law heartthrob-turned-Christian movie star) when several of my friends posted photos and Netflix screenshots captioned, “wtf is this shit?” on various social media platforms. Upon browsing through Netflix’s new releases, I saw the title myself. It was 2 a.m. and I didn’t hesitate for a second before pressing play. I had so many questions, namely these: How can a dating website become a movie? And how did anyone let this happen?
Christian Mingle is about Gwyneth Hayden (played by Lacey Chabert, best known for her role as Gretchen Wieners in Mean Girls ). Gwyneth has it all—good friends, a great job at a Godless Ad Agency© and a cute apartment. Of course, that isn’t enough! It is, after all, a universal truth that a single woman in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a husband…and Jesus. After the last of her friends gets engaged, Gwyneth panics; obviously being the only single girl in her group of friends means she’s doomed to be alone forever.
One lonely and fateful (in every sense of the word) night, she finds herself sadly eating cookies and watching TV (as single girls do). Between sketchy TV weight-loss ads she sees a commercial for Christian Mingle. It doesn’t take her long to sheepishly sign up for the website. The next day at work, she tells her co-worker—a sassy black woman™ who tells it like it is—exactly what she did. Her co-worker says something like, “Now chiiiile, you ain’t no Christian! Dat’s wack!” Of course, she does not listen to her black friend who exists only to talk sense into stupid white girls, because she would have deleted her account and then the movie would be over.
It doesn’t take long for Gwyneth to meet her match—and when I say, “it doesn’t take long” I mean literally her first date is the main love interest, Paul Wood (Jonathan Patrick Moore). At first, I wasn’t sure the first date would lead to anything, only because the two leads have zero chemistry and he’s a pair of khaki pants personified. For one date, they go out for sushi and he can barely eat it because he’s so American he can only eat chili-dogs. This is when Gwyneth starts falling hard…somehow. She really wants to date this cultureless loser and buys both Christianity for Dummies and The Bible for Dummies (before buying the actual Bible at the same bookstore in a later scene) because Wikipedia apparently don’t exist (spoiler alert: this paper trail will betray her).
As her relationship with Khaki Pants “blossoms,” Gwyneth learns more about Christianity but also has to keep lying about her lack of faith so he won’t dump her. (A solid foundation to any relationship, obviously.) This is where the film finds itself getting serious about Jesus and God and starts becoming the unintentionally hilarious hate-watch I was yearning for. Much to Gwyneth’s surprise, as she falls deeper in love with Khaki Pants, she also starts falling deeper in love with Jesus! At this point, she attends church and Bible studies and meets the family and friends of her boyfriend, which is when things start getting messy. Pants’s mother feels there’s something off about Gwyneth, like she’s not sincere about G-O-D—which he denies. Soon, they all embark on a missionary trip—a real romantic road trip—to a town in Mexico that had its church destroyed in a freak accident. It is here where Gwyneth’s façade as a good Christian girl unravels. One of the Godless Mexican kids finds her Christianity for Dummies book under her bed, and upon learning she is a fake-ass Christian, Pants breaks up with her and sends her back to America like some Christian episode of The Bachelor where all they do is side-hug.
Post break-up, Gwyneth realizes she actually does have Christ in her heart. She confesses this to her sassy black co-worker™ (who she, at one point, calls “Oprah”). Her sassy black co-worker™ gives her the sage advice that only a sassy black woman who’s seen shit can—just be honest. Within a few months, she quits her job as a heathen ad executive, apologizes to Pants (who is now engaged to an equally beige woman named Kelly) and goes back to that town in Mexico to teach the kids everything she learned in Christianity for Dummies. Pants visits the town and proposes to Gwyneth (Kelly has been conveniently dumped off-screen), an offer she pathetically accepts because it’s been well over a year and she’s still desperate and alone.
As I finished watching this movie-length infomercial for christianmingle.com, it was nearly sunrise and I still couldn’t really answer any questions about why or how this movie would be made. While christianmingle.com was how Gwyneth found love, the entire movie being called Christian Mingle seems unnecessarily confusing. And even though it was a faith-based movie, I didn’t feel like I gained any broader knowledge about Christianity from watching it. If the point was to draw viewers towards Christianity while also being entertaining, the creators should have picked a less mediocre male lead. Despite not having any warmth, the movie still managed to exude Full House levels of earnestness using metaphors and lines like “Ladies don’t need to find him, they need to find HIM!” Which is exactly what kept me watching; the movie was constantly one-upping itself in cheesiness at every turn.
There’s no way Christian Mingle is anyone’s favourite movie and there’s no way it will broach “guilty pleasure” territory, because a guilty pleasure usually involves an unexpected bond with a movie you’d otherwise never enjoy. I’d then put Christian Mingle forward as the perfect hate-watch: it’s terrible, you know it, and it never achieves any self-awareness about how terrible really it is. And still, like me, you’ll probably stay awake until an ungodly hour watching the hot mess unfold until its unsatisfying end. Why? I couldn’t tell you. But even though I ended up with a perfect hate-watch instead of a perfect guilty pleasure, giving Christian Mingle a chance was, in itself, a true act of faith.