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‘I’m in Love With a Church Girl’: Ja Rule finds love, faith

Adrienne BailJRule “I’m Love With Church Girl.”

Adrienne Bailon and Ja Rule in “I’m in Love With a Church Girl.”

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Vanessa Leon Adrienne Bailon

Miles Montego Ja Rule

Jason McDaniels Stephen Baldwin

RGM Films presents a film directed by Steve Race and written by Galley Molina. Running time: 118 minutes. Rated PG (for thematic elements, a scene of violence, some suggestive content and brief language). Opens Friday at local theaters.

Updated: November 19, 2013 6:12AM

At its core, “I’m in Love With a Church Girl” is a universal bad boy/good girl love story replete with troubles and tragedies. However, the fact that it’s geared toward fans of faith-based cinema places it in a category all its own. It’s packed with platitudes, scripture and morals presented in a way that may not appeal to some.

Rapper Ja Rule, who earlier in the summer was released from prison after serving most of a two-year sentence on a gun possession charge, plays Miles Montego, a high-rolling concert promoter who is trying to leave his former drug-dealing career in the past while still living the good life. That he hangs out with and is funded by his lifelong buddies still in the drug trade doesn’t seem to be a problem. Unknown to him, a DEA agent (an acerbic Stephen Baldwin) is hot on his trail and watching his every move.

Everything is upended when Miles meets and falls for Vanessa Leon (Adrienne Bailon), a churchgoing woman who is at first cautious but eventually opens her heart to him. But it’s the church way or no way as she guides Miles through the complexities of scripture and faith set against the moral challenges of a modern world.

Galley Molina wrote the film as an uplifting parable. Now a pastor, he was locked up for five years for drug trafficking and began writing the script while in prison. Grammy Award-winning Christian singer Israel Houghton served as a producer and also penned four new songs for the film.

The dialogue in places leans toward the banal, but a couple of plot twists help hold interest. And while some of the acting is amateurish, it’s intriguing to see Ja Rule, who has played edgier characters in films such as “The Fast and the Furious,” attempt a role that seems out of his wheelhouse. He embraces the challenge right down to a wrenching one-sided conversation with God.

Mary Houlihan is a Chicago freelance writer.

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