To start things off, Michael Landon Jr. is obviously capable of creating movies with high production quality. This being so, there is nothing glaringly wrong with this area of the film – the camera work is professional and there is a clear respect for historical authenticity present throughout. As our founder pointed out in his original review, the only issues here are a commonplace soundtrack that adds virtually nothing to the story, and an average editing job. To remedy these issues, the filmmakers should have followed the already complete (and well-done) editing job found in Janette Oke’s book, Love Comes Softly (yes, this movie is actually supposed to be based on that story). Furthermore, they should have invested in a proven editor who had done an above average job in the past. Otherwise, there is nothing to be ashamed of here, thus making production the strongest element in the film.
Plot and Storyline Improvements
If I was being generous, only about fifty percent of the content in this movie is accurate to Oke’s book. For example, the first couple of chapters in the novel clearly state that Marty’s husband’s name was Clem, not Aaron, and Missie turned two years old halfway through the book. In the movie she is at least ten. Sadly, this is the first of many errors. While Landon Jr. kept the basic idea of Marty and Clark’s relationship, it is like an empty shell with no heart. For starters, the dialogue between the two in the movie pales in comparison to the humorous and realistic interactions found in the book. The characters in the movie are somewhat stiff with rare displays of emotion -and the displays that are there are exaggerated and rather annoying – while the characters in the book are deep, complex, and human! Furthermore, Landon Jr. rejected the original plot structure for a simple tale that is similar to all his historical romance films. For instance, in the book Marty could not leave with the first spring wagon train because Missie caught the measles. In the movie, she left with the first one. In the book, Marty’s son Claridge (NOT AARON) choked on a button and had to be rushed to the doctor, and it was following this incident that Marty and Clark became a real husband and wife. In the movie, Clark chases after her wagon on horseback and throws out a cliche as his reason for leaving Missie alone at home: “A man loses his woman, he goes after her.” And because I’m on a roll, the original agreement between Clark and Marty was that she would establish a relationship with Missie, then take her and Claridge back East in the spring. In the movie Missie did not leave with Marty. Finally, as our founder pointed out in his review, Landon Jr. had no excuse for any of these errors, because he had both the budget and the run-time to use the original book content.
The plot in the book relied on it’s deep and well-rounded characters, however, this was not the case in the movie. Let’s be honest, the only reason people watched this movie is because it had a familiar actress in the lead role and good production quality. This brings me to my first point. While Katherine Heigl is a fairly good choice for Marty, she does not meet her full potential under Landon Jr.’s tutelage – he only works with meek and air-headed female leads. Secondly, Dale Midkiff has to go. period. The Clark Davis in the book was twenty-five, maybe thirty. Clark in the movie is, by all appearances, at least forty.. For this and many reasons, he needs to be recast. Thirdly, Theresa Russell is a terrible choice to play Ma Graham. Oh, you did not know that was her name? This is no fault of yours, in the movie her name is Sarah Graham. Ma Graham was at least fifty when Marty met her, and had thirteen children (a blended family). Sarah/Ma in the movie is shallow and always spouting inspirational cliches in times of difficulty. Ma in the book is a fountain of wisdom and spiritual depth. Fourthly, Corbin Bernsen is not a bad choice for Ben, and could be arguably the best actor in the film (shocking I know). Finally, all the actors are wearing too much makeup and have too clean of clothes for anyone to believe that they are living as pioneers out West. This area of the film could have been improved by removing Landon Jr.’s influence over the casting and hiring someone who actually knew what they were doing.
In conclusion, because of all the glaring errors here, this movie deserves a remake. The original book content is worth it. For starters, Janette Oke should be a part of the filmmaking, especially the casting. The screenwriter should use the content in the book and make very few alterations. Michael Landon Jr. is obviously not the right person to make movies from books. Christian authors, beware. Yet, with the right person(s), and inclusion of Oke in the filmmaking, this movie could change the older generations’ perspective on romance plots. Oke had a gift for appealing to all the generations and creating diverse characters; her content should not be ignored just because Landon Jr. ruined it.