“Courageous,” a faith-based film produced by the same Georgia megachurch that made “Fireproof,” certainly is earnest. Its central point — how fathers should be kind, responsible and loving to their families, all the while making sure everyone lives by biblical principles — is admirable. But at well over two hours, the film suffers from a frequently hectoring and (worse) plodding quality.It’s as if co-writer-director-star Alex Kendrick is delivering a sermon to a particularly dimwitted congregation, pounding home the point that guys need to man up and take care of their children. But after more than two hours, you wish Kendrick would have trimmed about 35 minutes from the homily.Happily, “Courageous” is better than Kendrick’s clunky 2006 football drama “Facing the Giants,” which was both preachy and amateurish.(Full disclosure here: I didn’t see “Fireproof,” Kendrick’s previous film, which grossed an impressive $35 million in 2008.)In contrast, Kendrick displays a surer hand in his storytelling in “Courageous.” There’s even one nifty action sequence revolving around an extended police chase that’s as slick as any big-budget movie. And there are genuinely funny and moving scenes as the movie plows forward to its inevitable uplifting conclusion.And the performances — especially by Kevin Downes and Ken Bevel — are an improvement over “Giants.” Downes in particular turns his character into a flawed but memorable person, not just a cardboard character spouting platitudes.”Courageous” follows four deputy sheriffs in suburban Georgia as they struggle raising their families and face ethical dilemmas.Kendrick stars as the sort of leader of the group, a married father of two. After a family tragedy, he comes up with the idea of a fatherhood pledge that he urges his partner (Downes), two other colleagues (Bevel and Ben Davies) and a friend Javier (Robert Amaya) to sign as well.Unfortunately, Kendrick spends a lot of time with Javier’s story, which feels tacked on and unnecessary, especially a sequence in which the struggling immigrant is given an ethical test at his new job.The “test” comes off cruel and dumb — something that could lead to a well-deserved lawsuit if anyone in business ever tried the stunt in the real world.Also not working is a cringe-worthy scene in which Deputy Hayes (Bevel) takes his young teenage daughter to dinner where he gives her a ring and essentially tells the girl he’s her “spiritual husband” until he decides to marry her off. If Kendrick thought the scene was heartwarming, he’s wrong. It comes off as, frankly, creepy.In the end, “Courageous” will no doubt please its target audience — the faith-based church-goers who came out to see “Fireproof” — but may have a hard time crossing over to a more secular audience.