Movie Renovation: Love’s Abiding Joy

Image result for love's abiding joy

Image result for love's abiding joy

Image result for love's abiding joy
“Dancin’ is a good excuse to wrap your arms around a pretty woman” ~Dale Midkiff

Production Improvements

Michael Landon Jr. continues to provide good production quality in this movie series, however, it remains his only strength. However, as our founder pointed out in his review, the editing is atrociously choppy, and you guessed it, the makeup and costuming is overdone. Landon Jr.’s attempt at historical accuracy in makeup and costuming begins to diminish in this film, and worsens in the later ones. Erin Cottrell has too much makeup on for us to believe she is living out West, and Dale Midkiff looks like he just stepped out of a spa, not a stagecoach. However, these flaws could have been overlooked if the original plot had been upheld. 

Plot & Storyline Improvements

Where to begin? There is nothing in this plot that is remotely accurate to the book. First, the book opens with Clark and Marty in their 40’s, with adult children and several grandchildren. Marty receives a gift of train tickets to see Missie from Clark for her birthday, and the two journey there. The movie opens with Missie and Willie married with an older adopted son, young son, and baby daughter. Marty is completely absent from the film, and Clark has just arrived for a visit. Within the first thirty minutes of the film the baby girl dies, leading him to extend his trip. In the book, Missie and Willie had two young sons, and more hands than they did in the previous novel, not less (as is portrayed in the movie). I have already mentioned that Jeff was not in the book, so reinforcing this point is null. The movie plot continues with the Lahayes grieving individually for their daughter, including Erin Cottrell screaming in a field, and Dale Midkiff offering cliches as reassurance. In the book, Clark and Marty enjoy meeting Missie’s new friends and neighbors before Clark becomes involved in trying to rescue two boys from a collapsed mine. He severely injures his leg in the process, and it is amputated by a doctor-in-hiding who also happens to be Missie’s best friend’s husband. This extends the Davis’ visit and puts things back home on hold. In the movie, the plot meanders between the grieving parents, the evil rich guy, and Jeff’s forbidden love interest with no real direction or point. In short, this movie never should have been made, and it is fruitless to continue to point out it’s many flaws, for this will help no one. 

Acting Improvements

Recast everyone and make this a TV series. This is the best way to fix this disaster. There is not much else to say here. The cast of this film is inaccurate to the book and drags down the movie even further. 

Conclusion

In conclusion, because of the many errors, this movie deserves a remake. The original book content is worth it. Janette Oke should be a part of the filmmaking, especially the casting. The screenwriter should use the content in the book to create a TV series and make very few alterations 
(we still don’t know why MLJ didn’t think of this). There is enough content to make an entire season out of each book. As seen in When Calls the Heart, screenwriters can build an entire episode around much less! Filmmakers looking to make a historical romance TV series, look no further than this book series for content!

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Movie Renovation: Love’s Long Journey

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Image result for love's long journey
This is totally not a baby doll

Production Improvements

There are no errors here, Michael Landon Jr. has a talent for creating high quality productions. This part of the film is an example to others inspirational filmmakers of how to use your budget to it’s maximum potential. As he obviously has potential as a filmmaker, there is no reason for his mistakes in the others areas of the film. 

Plot & Storyline Improvements

This plot had potential, and there is nothing inherently wrong with Landon Jr.’s content – except that it is not accurate to the book. In some areas, he strays so far that one has to wonder if he even read the book before making the movie. The plot contains fairly believable secondary characters, humor, and a mostly realistic tale of married life. However, there are also many problems. First, Jeff and his brother are not in the book, neither are the other ‘bad guy’ characters. While this subplot was an interesting idea, it is not fully developed and is therefore unnecessary. Plus, the ‘bad guy’ characters are extremely cheesy. Second, Missie was throughout the entire duration of the journey by wagon, not just at the end. She was about seven months pregnant when they reached their destination, however, Willie wanted a doctor to deliver their baby – a fellow passenger died in childbirth on the trail and scared everyone – so he left her in town while he went on to hire hands and establish their homestead. Third, in the book, once she finally made it to Willie’s land, Missie had to live in a one-room sod house with the baby for two years before he made enough money to build a real house. In the movie, they fix up a small, already existing house on the land. Furthermore, the Native American subplot in the movie is completely fabricated and has nothing to do with the original story. Missie was not a teacher out West because there was no one to teach and she was busy surviving. She did have one neighbor, Maria, who was Mexican and had a husband and son. Maria did not speak English, so Missie taught her, and in return Maria familiarized Missie with her culture. Maria did not deliver Missie’s first son (whose name was Nathan Isaiah BTW), and that was not the only child Missie had. At the end of the novel it is mentioned that she is expecting another. Finally, there are also many instances where Missie and Willie share the gospel with those around them; this fact is completely deleted from the movie, with the exception of a few scenes where they are shown reading the Bible. Therefore, Landon Jr. could have improved this plot by using the content already written in the book, and by making this book series into a TV series, not a standalone film.

Acting Improvements

Oh, just when we thought it couldn’t possibly get worse, it did. Thank God Dale Midkiff’s scenes a brief and far between. We’ll never know why Erin Cottrell was chosen to replace January Jones, the former was a better actress and had more potential, even if she was a typical Landon female lead. Cottrell drags down the whole movie. Logan Bartholomew is slightly better in this movie than the previous one, but is still his awkward self. Cookie is a walking stereotype (he wasn’t African American in the book), and Henry was not a full-grown man with a checkered past in the book, he was a boy that the LaHayes hired to drive their second wagon while on the trail. On the whole, the acting in the movie is pretty bad, and the cast needs a complete redo. However, to their credit, they don’t have anyone to tell them how to improve.

Conclusion

In conclusion, because of the many errors here, this movie deserves a remake. The original book content is worth it. Janette Oke should be a part of the filmmaking, especially the casting. The screenwriter should use the content in the book to create a TV series and make very few alterations
(we still don’t know why MLJ didn’t think of this). There is enough content to make an entire season out of each book. As seen in When Calls the Heart, screenwriters can build an entire episode around much less! Filmmakers looking to make a historical romance TV series, look no further than this book series for content!

Movie Renovation: Love’s Enduring Promise

Image result for love's enduring promise movie

Image result for love's enduring promise movie
Pa needs me!

Production Improvements

Love’s Enduring Promise has great production quality, with realistic sets, a picturesque location, and great camera work. As our founder pointed out, the main issues here are some choppy editing and the usual unrealistic makeup jobs. Otherwise, this is the strongest area of the film. It is obvious that Michael Landon Jr. is a talented producer. However, as women had little to no access to makeup out West, and only took baths once a week to save water, there is work to do in the area of makeup and costuming. Additionally, after further observation of the book series’ content, I believe this book and the others should be joined together to make a TV series. I believe this is the only way all the content and the many characters could be included. In short, this book should never have been a standalone film.

Plot & Storyline Improvements

Where to begin? Michael Landon Jr. has drastically altered the book content in this film, so much so that it barely resembles the original story. First, he pieced together some obscure sub-plots in the final chapters of the novel – Missie went on a date with a man named Grant Thomas and eventually married Willie – and created his usual love triangle between Missie, Grant, and Willie. He purposely ignored the fact that Missie also went on dates with one of Ma Graham’s (Sarah in the movie, oh wait she’s not in this movie, another inaccuracy) sons for some time before going out with Willie, and that it took some time for her and Willie’s relationship to develop. Next, the core incident in the film – Clark cutting his leg with an axe while chopping firewood – never existed in the book. In the novel, there was an obscure sub-plot where Clark had a logging accident and cut his foot. This laid him up for a couple of weeks, but he was never unconscious or in critical condition. In the movie he has an infected limb and potential gangrene, in the book he had a cut that was stitched up, big deal. Finally, in the book Clark and Marty have three children together after becoming a real husband and wife. Arnie was one of their sons, but Landon Jr. forgot Ellie, Luke, and their adopted daughters Nandry and Clae. Nandry and Clae were adopted from a neglectful neighbor who was leaving to pan for gold and was easily convinced to give up his children. While the book content is a bit of an information dump, it would make several great episodes in a TV series. Considering that Landon Jr. has had much success with this in the past, I am flabbergasted as to why he didn’t think of this from the start. People are far more likely to watch TV than go see an obscure inspirational film. This is the main way in which he could have improved the plot and storyline quality. 

Acting Improvements

Again, there is so much bad here it is hard to know where to start. Dale Midkiff is a terrible actor, Katherine Heigl’s promising performance in the previous movie has declined considerably, and the child actors are grating. K’Sun Ray needed serious coaching to come off as anything but a whiny little kid, and it was not given to him. Arnie is barely in the film and has a forgettable performance at best. Logan Bartholomew is awkward and does not accurately portray the Willie character. Finally, January Jones shows potential as Missie, but delivers a mostly blank performance and needs coaching. Landon Jr. could have improved this section by giving Katherine Heigl a chance to improve, and recasting everyone else.

Conclusion

In conclusion, because of all the glaring errors here, this movie deserves a remake. The original book content is worth it. Janette Oke should be a part of the filmmaking, especially the casting. The screenwriter should use the content in the book to create a TV series and make very few alterations. There is enough content to make an entire season out of each book. As seen in When Calls the Heart, screenwriters can build an entire episode around much less! Filmmakers looking to make a historical romance TV series, look no further than this book series for content!

2012: Doomsday (Movie Review)

Only Dale Midkiff can save us now

Plot Summary

When a volcano is about to explode in Mexico, Dr. Frank Richards knows that the only conclusion can be that the end of the world is near.  The American government’s best scientists agree and begin to make an action plan as earthquakes, hurricanes, and tsunamis rack the planet.  The only hope for saving humanity is Frank Richards’ plan to return a secret Mayan artifact to its rightful resting place so that the disaster will reverse and mankind will be able to rebuild from the ashes.

 

Production Quality (-1 points)

The Asylum’s side project Faith Films was once determined to purposely make cheap parodies of Christian films, and they mostly succeeded in masquerading as real Christian movies because they were often indistinguishable from other cut-rate productions.  2012: Doomsday is no exception.  There are multiple purposeful production errors in this film, including clear audio overdubs and a stupid soundtrack.  Ridiculous special effects riddle the landscape of this natural disaster, as well as shaky camera work and other expected errors.  Basically, these films are someone trying to be like Cross Shadow or Faithhouse.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

Though the satire of this absurd disaster story is actually funny at times, it’s still not really any good.  It’s only funny because it’s so ridiculous and because it’s so easy to parody clichés from Christian and inspirational movies, not mention general disaster films.  With the level of absurdity displayed here, especially in the characters and the dialogue, not even to mention the laughable premise, you either have to laugh or cry.  There is no sense of understanding what’s happening in this story, and this is entirely by design.  As we’ve mentioned before, it’s too easy to disguise your parody film as a serious one and sell it in Christian bookstores because the so-called serious Christian films have set such a low standard.

Acting Quality (-1 points)

No parody cast is complete without Dale Midkiff, who found the pinnacle of his career with his unforgettable performance in this film.  He probably has a future in more parody films.  Elsewhere, this cast is just as ridiculous and absurd as the rest of the movie.

Conclusion

Hopefully new Christian film makers are building a market where these sorts of films can no longer be made due to rising standards.  Parodies and satires definitely have their place, but they need to have a point and not just be outright nonsense fests.  Maybe someday that elusive future parody Christian Movie will come out with an epic cast that will actually be remembered for being a true satire.

 

Final Rating: -3 out of 10 points

 

Love’s Unfolding Dream (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Raised by her new family, Belinda Tyler is now ready to set out and make a life for herself, even though the culture she lives in frowns upon women pursuing professional careers.  She is finally and begrudgingly allowed by the local doctor to assist him in a small role, and she gets a ‘big break’ one day when a wealthy yet elderly woman has a stroke in the middle of town and is confined to bed.  Belinda becomes her nurse and physical therapist, but that’s not the only task on her mind—a young lawyer has come to town to ready some inherited property for sale, and the two of them clash over their views of women’s roles in society.  Little do either of them know that their carefully chosen paths are about to be altered forever.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Another unnecessary installment in the Love Comes Softly series, another quasi-inspirational director.  The story of Unfolding Dream’s production is much like the latter installment.  The video quality and camera work are solid.  The sound quality, however, is sometimes inconsistent.  The historical surroundings are fairly well done, but they are obviously limited in scope, as the same sets are used excessively.  As will be discussed in depth later in this review, the costuming and makeup are particular horrible in this film.  Finally, the editing is uneven, pasting stock scenes together in an attempt to create a movie.  In short, there is really nothing new here—at this point, the saga settled into average production quality and awful plots and acting.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though Michael Landon Jr. returned to the writing department, things did not improve.  It cannot be understated that the original intent of Janette Oke’s work has been completely abandoned and replaced with a shallow inspirational ‘plot’.  ‘Plot’ is relative because a collection of random empty sequences depicting silly stereotypical frontier characters is not a true storyline.  Characters go here and there, from one place to the next, with no real plot flow.  Dialogue is very hollow, thus forming plastic characters.  The “excuse for Drew to go to the doctor” device is highly overused.  While discussing the roles of frontier women is an interesting topic, it cannot be properly appreciated in the context of this film.  The only other thing that keeps this plot from being zero is the intriguing underdeveloped subplot between Belinda and Mrs. Stafford-Smythe.  Yet there are also other useless subplots shoved into the storyline, likely to increase the movie’s runtime.  Therefore, less than a full point must be awarded here.

Acting Quality (0 points)

It doesn’t really get any worse than this.  From exotic frontier hairdos to extravagant makeup to fake country accents, the overall acting quality barely escaped negative points.  The continued commitment of Dale Midkiff and Erin Cottrell to this franchise derails it.  There is no acting coaching employed; too many supporting characters come off as robotic.  Due to the poor acting, the audience cannot relate to these characters.

Conclusion

As the saga slugs on, it becomes increasingly apparent that the writing team didn’t have that many ideas.  Rushing up and forcing new romances and courtships into every new movie demonstrates lack of creativity and borderline obsession.  The question must be asked again: was the original Janette Oke plot really so bad that this was used instead?  We think not, and would advise future novel adaptations to do their best to stay faithful to the original story, unless they can find a way to improve it.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

Love’s Unending Legacy (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Following the tragic death of her husband Willie, Missy LaHaye moves back to the town her parents, Clark and Marty Davis, live in order to try to start a new life.  She is determined to insulate herself from anymore heartache by taking care of her son Matty and by quietly settling into another teaching role.  However, her carefully constructed world is disrupted when an orphan train comes to town looking for new parents to take in starving orphans and when Missy finds herself falling for the town sheriff, a broken man who also wants to protect himself from hurt.  Little do they know that out of sadness can come new beginnings.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

With the exit of Michael Landon Jr. from the franchise, the production quality diminished considerably.  While the camera work, video quality, and sound quality are still above par, there are other problems to contend with.  The sets are obviously limited as some things take place off screen and some surroundings don’t really even capture what they’re meant to capture.  The costuming is partially unrealistic as some characters never seem to get dirty and obviously have modern hairdos.  Furthermore, the editing can best be described as stop and start—the story does not flow well, as we will see next.  In short, Michael Landon Jr. still knows how to produce a film well, and his absence is felt in Love’s Unending Legacy.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

At this point, the Love Comes Softly franchise completely abandons the original intent of the novel saga and begins to attempt to excessively replicate the original series storyline—a youngish widow falls in love with a hurting man who she really didn’t like at first and who likely had a ‘romance hurt’ in the past.  We really don’t understand why Janette Oke continued to rubber stamp this series since it undermines her better novels.  Love’s Unending Legacy is wrought with bizarre lines, forced dialogue, and unrealistic happenings.  There is really no good dialogue and the dialogue that exists is very head-scratching.  “[Dancing] is an excuse to get your arms around a pretty woman” is not exactly a wholesome Christian line.  Besides this, the end of the plot is predictable and neatly-fixed-up—yet it is not even accessible by audiences since there is really no feeling put into it.  The only positive to raise here is some potential with the orphan train story, but that’s it.  In short, we have to wonder why the original novel plot could not have been at least adapted in some small fashion when this is the alternative.

Acting Quality (0 points)

As previously mentioned, the costuming and makeup on the ‘good’ actors and actresses is unrealistic for the time period.  The actual acting is very unusual, like some characters were allowed to improvise most of their lines.  Other actors and actresses are left looking robotic because of an obvious absence of coaching.  There is really nothing good to say here.

Conclusion

The big question Unending Legacy raises is ‘Why?’  With the departure of Michael Landon Jr., who at least partially adhered to Oke’s original books and brought above average production quality, was it realty worth making four more movies that borrow characters and titles from the novels and use them with large creative license?  Unending Legacy doesn’t even have a good enough plot to justify the departure from the book—if it did, then this will be an entirely different review.  An eight-movie saga is hard enough to craft successfully; four movies was likely enough.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

Love’s Abiding Joy (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Clark Davis makes a cross-country journey to visit the LaHaye’s cattle ranch, he finds a family trying to hold things together as they ride through tough financial times.  Problems are only compounded when the infant Kathy LaHaye dies suddenly of unknown causes.  Each family member is scattered from each other, dealing with grief in different unhealthy ways.  Willie is forced to take an extra job as the town sheriff as many local families are struggling to make ends meet under the firm grip of the cruel mayor Samuel Doros.  With so many negative circumstances pressing in around them, the Clark and the LaHayes will have to pull together and remember that the darkest times come right before the light.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Consistent with the previous Love Comes Softly films, the production quality of Love’s Abiding Joy is above average.  The video quality and sound quality are solid.  The camera work is professional.  However, there are some minor issues here, such as the stock musical score.  In keeping with a main Michael Landon Jr. error, the costuming, especially the makeup, is inconsistent with the historical period.  Also, the editing is very choppy, not giving any opportunity to truly engage in the story, as will be discussed further next.  But in sum, Abiding Joy looks good on the surface and is mostly good in this area.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

As previously alluded to, the plot seems like a collection of random scenes glued together.  It meanders without any real identity, forcing too many different issues together in one storyline.  In the midst of this, the tragic struggles of the characters cannot be connected with or accessed by the audience because they seem very shallow.  The dialogue is quite stock; no care is given to originality.  Each character is very procedural and stereotypical, including the cheesy villain.  Abiding Joy begins a new theme of the remainder of the Love Comes Softly series: forced extra romance subplots.  At this point, the original novel plots have been completely abandoned.  On a brighter note, this grief story had some great potential, but it was left untapped.  There is a slightly interesting twist at the end of the story, but it’s pretty much washed over by all the other negative elements.  Unfortunately, that’s the only good that can be said.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Abiding Joy marks the beginning of vain actors and actresses in this film franchise.  Dale Midkiff once again takes on a large role in this movie, and it’s not a good thing.  Other cast members portray annoying forced emotions and awkward line delivery.  Erin Cottrell has a lot of half-screamed lines.  The only good element to bring light to here is the presence of at least some good acting, though it’s just not enough.

Conclusion

Love’s Abiding Joy had just as much of an original idea behind the plot as Love’s Long Journey did, but the originality is left on the proverbial playing field.  We need more movies about the real struggles of families portrayed in realistic settings, but this film just doesn’t cut it.  There was a significant decrease in overall quality in this fourth Love Comes Softly installment, and unfortunately, it was the unhindered beginning of a major slide for the film saga.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

Love’s Long Journey (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Following their marriage, Willie and Missy LaHaye set off further west to begin a life of their own by building their own cattle ranch business.  They set out with no one but each other to lean on and begin forming relationships with people in the small settlement near their land.  Willie assembles a team of castoff ranch hands while Missy seeks to assist local Native Americans in their educational pursuits.  They are surrounded by hurting and hungry people who need what they have to offer, but little do they know that evil also lurks around the corner, wanting to steal what they have worked hard for.  The LaHayes will have to dig deep and cling to everything they learned back home in order to weather the storm.

 

Production Quality (3 points)

Love’s Long Journey marks the high point of the Love Comes Softly series in multiple ways, and especially in production quality.  The camera work, video quality, and sound quality are all solid.  This is the most authentic-looking Love movie when it comes to props, costuming, sets, and locations.  Great care was obviously taken to make this film as realistic as possible, and it shows.  Constantly dealing with farm animals on set is neither easy nor something you see often in Christian films, but Long Journey pulls this off without errors.  In short, the production of this film is flawless.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

While it is still not entirely accurate to the novel, Long Journey is the best flowing and dynamic plot of the film franchise.  The characters, although they still need some deepening.  It’s refreshing that there are some different characters in this plot that are not typical frontier romance characters.  In that vein, there is no new romance\courtship, but an actual portrayal of married life—what a concept!  While the dialogue as a whole is just average, there is some truly good humor throughout.  The end of this plot, though slightly predictable, is actually epic and has a unique twist to it.  However, the villains in this plot are extremely cheesy and unrealistic.  Also, we felt that the subplot between the two brothers needed to be explored further and to take on a larger role in the film.  But besides these small issues, this is a solid plot that deserves recognition.

Acting Quality (1 point)

This is where this movie loses Hall of Fame momentum.  Changing actors and\or actresses in the middle of a franchise is rarely a good idea, especially when it’s a downgrade.  We realize that sometimes you can’t retain actresses, but January Jones was a much better missy than Erin Cottrell.  Unfortunately, a majority of Cottrell’s lines seem forced and strained—she is the main reason this movie is not as good as it could have been, especially since she plays the central character.  But even still, this is the best acted movie of the franchise, with just average acting.  On a brighter note, Long Journey has an actually fair portrayal of Native Americans by using real Native American actors—another novel concept.

Conclusion

Love’s Long Journey is another one of those movies that really could have been something great.  It had all the tools—originality, great production, honest portrayal.  But one poor starring actor or actress can really spoil a movie; this film is an unfortunate example of this.  Regardless, this is an enjoyable movie that many people will find acceptable.  It was a symbol in its era of better Christian movies and it can be used as a blueprint today on how to—and not to—revive a franchise to greatness.

 

Final Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points

 

Love’s Enduring Promise (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Years after Clark and Marty Davis settled into their new life together, their family is prosperous and successful.  Missy Davis is a young woman now with a job and a mind of her own.  All seems well until tragedy strikes—Clark receives a serious injury in a wood-cutting accident, which sends the entire family into a search for answers and hope.  While taking care of Clark and praying for healing, Marty and Missy must work the fields in order to have the crops done in time for harvest.  At the end of their rope, they suddenly receive help from an unexpected source.  Little do they know that God has been watching over them all along and will allow them to be a part of His special plan.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Michael Landon Jr. and Hallmark, in this installment, continued to showcase production superiority over other Christian films of the era.  Love’s Enduring Promise has realistic sets and locations and great camera work.  The video and sound quality are solid, including well-filmed outside scenes.  The costuming is pretty good, with some minor issues regarding period authenticity.  The only other caveats to raise are some poorly created special effects and inconsistent editing.  At the beginning, the movie makes sense, but it becomes very rushed and choppy at the end, as will be explained next.  Nonetheless, the Love Comes Softly series, at this point, was still produced well.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

As previously mentioned, the first half of the movie is interesting and it feels like the audience will really be able to get to know Janette Oke’s characters.  However, once the major conflict is easily resolved, the plot meanders from there and comes to a predictable and forced conclusion.  Besides this, this film is an inaccurate adaptation of original novel that does not improve upon the original plot.  There are too many plot holes and unnecessary characters that only provide filler time.  The inevitable romance seems forced; it’s hard to really appreciate what’s going on because the characters are too shallow. While the dialogue is okay, the characters need to be deeper.  There is some real humor, but the Christian message is forced and not meaningful.  In short, this plot had a lot of potential to be different and interesting and to package a profound Christian message into a movie with authentic, accessible characters, but it only comes off as half-measures.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

The cast size increased for the second installment, but the quality decreased.  There are only a handful of good actors and actresses; the child actors are not coached well.  Line delivery is overly dramatic, like every line is supposed to be a deep spiritual truth.  But at the same time, emotions seem shallow.  Unfortunately, low quality acting derails an otherwise above average film.

Conclusion

Janette Oke’s beloved series has a mountain of good content where deep characters and realistic frontier struggles are concerned.  However, Michael Landon Jr. and team did not capture what they needed to capture.  Love Comes Softy could have been an epic saga, but we are only left to wonder what could have been.  Most audiences will be fine with Love’s Enduring Promise, mostly because of the era it was released in, but it needed something more.  In the future, we hope that this movie genre is redeemed from ‘just okay’ status.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

Love Comes Softly (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Taken to the unknown Western lands of America by her husband Aaron, Marty Claridge doesn’t know what to do when her husband dies in a tragic accident.  Alone in a strange land, she accepts the offer of a widower named Clark Davis to marry him for convenience until she can go back home to the East.  As she struggles to cope with her own loss and deal with Clark’s spirited daughter Missy, who is still dealing with the tragic loss of her mother, Marty slowly realizes that she will miss the Davis home when she has to leave.  She will have to decide what will prevail—her heart or her head.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

For the most part, Michael Landon Jr. knows what he’s doing when it comes to production.  This was during the heyday of Fox Faith and Hallmark, and it is easy to understand what set inspirational semi-Christian films like this one apart from movies in its genre before it.  The video quality is clear and outside scenes are filmed well.  The camera work is professional.  Care was taken to make the surroundings and props authentic to the time period.  However, the musical score is stock and the editing is just average.  Too many events take place off screen, things that could have set this movie apart from other romances.  But in the end, the production is likely this film’s greatest asset.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Adapted from the first novel of Janette Oke’s famous series, Love Comes Softly is an intriguing plot.  This film is likely the most accurate to the original story of the whole movie franchise.  A marriage of convenience plot is not that uncommon, yet it was common for the frontier settlement time period.  Other authentic historical factors are captured.  The dialogue is good, but not great, but the characters are at the very least believable.  But with a simplistic commonly used plot, character deepening is greatly needed.  Unfortunately, Love Comes Softly, though it had the runtime to accomplish this, did not do it.  This is why the plot comes out of just average.

Acting Quality (1 point)

This was a small cast and was far better than many Christian film casts of the time, but it still was plagued with errors.  Some characters (as we will see later from Michael Landon Jr.) are too done-up for the time period, i.e., too much makeup and manicures.  But compared to later, Love Comes Softly was great in this area.  Yet other problems remain.  Only two or three actors are truly good.  Katherine Heigl and Dale Midkiff are okay in their roles, but they needed refining.  Once again, in a small-scope, simplistic plot, acting is essential, and this cast was only marginal.

Conclusion

Love Comes Softly marked the beginning of an era for Michael Landon Jr., Hallmark, and popular author Janette Oke.  Oke captured believable, seemingly common historical characters in her novels and brought them to life for audiences to enjoy.  However, the film franchise did not necessarily do this.  Love Comes Softly is a strong enough beginning and demanded stronger follow-ups.  But if you are looking for a well-produced, semi-typical Christian romance, this is the film for you, and you will not be disappointed.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points