Written & Directed By: #AshantePTStokes
Short Film Review by #ChrisBuick
Ashante P.T. Stokes’ Praise the Maker is an animated short starring, written and directed by the award-winning gospel musician, rapper and actor himself, here portraying PT The Gospel Spitter (also the real-life stage moniker Stokes’ has adopted), a man attempting to convince those in his neighbourhood, primarily his friend Slim (Williams), to embrace the word of the Lord. Thankfully, he has a catchy tune to help get his message across called, you guessed it, Praise the Maker.
Being completely honest, that plot summary seems generous and might give this film a sense of depth and story it really doesn’t have. Essentially, what Praise the Maker really is, is a crudely animated music video for a song that we get to “enjoy” not just once but twice throughout the eight-minute runtime. Despite the complete five-second tonal shift in the finale, the film has one basic movement played out twice; PT sidling up to certain individuals and asking them to check out his latest track, which then inexplicably causes all surrounding characters (as well as others that seem to materialise out of nowhere), to beak into the most basic animated movements that can only very loosely be called dancing.
While the plot is thin, any positives are also few in number, but there are a couple. One; it does provide some laughs, although probably not at all in the way that was intended. Two; the song is not half bad and in fact is rather catchy. Unfortunately, in terms of filmmaking, there is little else to write home about.
While the animation is not horrendous, it appears awfully outdated by today's standards, it has the amateurish look of an early noughties Newgrounds cartoon, which makes it hard to take seriously and also creates some confusion as to who the target audience here actually is. While implementing animation itself was not a bad choice in principle by any means, it is poorly executed here and only distracts from the film's overall sentiment, one might have expected a higher level of production considering the talent and resources behind the project.
If it wasn’t evident from the synopsis above, what little writing there is makes no real impact and purely serves as a weak bridge between iterations of the song. The sound editing itself also needs some heavy work, voices are muffled and incoherent at times and there is a constant buzz of fuzzy static that never goes away, the whole thing ends up sounding like it was recorded on a Zoom call. Random stock background noises such as gunfire and car horns also sporadically feature which are perhaps supposed to create a sense of location but are just jarring and feel very much like the afterthought they probably were. This can also be said for the complete sideswipe plot twist for lack of a better word that clangs to the ground right at the end, clearly an attempt to give the film any remote sense of gravitas but instead is just perplexing and comes across as a severe error in judgment.
Praise the Maker is an example of a film that can merit some commendation for its positive intentions and overall message, but is definitely guilty of poor execution and will most likely leave you with nothing more than a temporary earworm for the rest of the day.