Switched [2020] (Movie Review)

New Movie Alert: Switched (Christian version of Freaky Friday):  ohnotheydidnt — LiveJournal

Plot Summary

Cassandra Evans is tired of being bullied by Katie Sharp, a popular social media figure in her school. One day, after a particularly bad episode of mistreatment, Cassandra prays that Katie will know what it’s like to walk in her shoes. Surprisingly, the next day, the two girls wake up having switched bodies with one another. The only way they’ll ever be able to get back to normal is to work together and learn how they need to change their old ways.

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As a 2020 film, Switched does what it has to do in the production category. Professionalism is showcased with great video quality, camera work, and audio quality. Despite a somewhat generic soundtrack, the sets, locations, and props are well-constructed and well-used. There are no negatives to point out in this section save for some slight editing concerns. Nonetheless, this isn’t enough to prevent a high score from being awarded.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

In addition to the really worn-out concept of body switching, the heavy-handed and obvious dialogue does nothing to help matters. If you must use a derivative of this premise, the characters have to be good enough to showcase noticeable changes, but in Switched, this doesn’t happen. Although they aren’t the worst characters and actually have some potential, more time was needed prior to body switch to actually develop them as believable people. Some improvements are made to dialogue as the film goes on, and realistic high school issues are explored, albeit in slightly over-the-top ways, such as the cheesy portrayal of “bad kids.” It’s hard to see past the issues the characters are supposed to represent and relate to them as people. Also, the Christian messaging feels a bit forced and shoe-horned at times. Besides these problems, there’s an entire sub-category of errors that are created by the body switching elements, such as characters obviously acting inconsistent with their true selves without drawing suspicion from others. Some scenes defy logic when characters brush off the odd behavior of the central figures, and too many coincidences occur to make things happen that the plot wants to take place. Themes tend to get lost throughout the narrative, and a vague passage of time confuses the audience. Unfortunately, a good point made by the conclusion and a demonstration of how the two protagonists organically changed is washed over with mistakes and a convoluted story presentation. Hence, a small score is warranted here, but not much more.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

In a body switching screenplay, if it must exist, the reverse acting has to be really good. However, in Switched, this isn’t the case as everyone seems generic and carbon-copy in the movie’s first half. Nonetheless, the acting does tend to get better, at least in the areas of emotional and line delivery. For the most part, with a few exceptions, the cast members do the best they can with what they have, which earns this section an average score.

Conclusion

Mustard Seed Entertainment is usually so close to doing something good. Switched had a lot of potential within it, but it failed to attain all that it could have. Body switching aside, there are worthwhile messages in this film that deserve a platform: the one that isn’t too confusing or cheesy. For future success, this creative team might consider bringing in more talented screenwriters so that their resources can be used on more worthwhile stories.

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

The Prayer Box (Series Review)

The Prayer Box, DVD -

Plot Summary

Welsey wants to do the right thing even as his sister lays in a hospital bed struggling in her battle with cancer.  Wesley faithfully attends church, even though his mother has forsaken the faith for now, and he fervently prays at the altar every week.  However, he is hurt when he sees that his pastor is throwing away the prayer requests people put in the prayer box at the altar.  Thus, Wesley launches a plan to redeem the prayer box and convince God with his deeds that his sister deserves to survive the battle with cancer.

Production Quality (2.5 points)

It’s clear that although the budget for this miniseries was somewhat limited, Kevan Otto used his funds responsibly and maximized the potential from them.  This is evidenced by clear video quality, good camera work, and professional audio quality.  The soundtrack is somewhat generic, but it gets better as the series progresses.  The sets, locations, and props are well-constructed and well-utilized as they appear to be realistic for the situations.  The main drawback here is the slight need for refined editing in order to avoid including as much B-roll footage for filler scenes as it did.  However, this is a very good production, which signals that Kevan Otto has finally turned over a new leaf in his career.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

The Prayer Box is a testament that even Kevan Otto can create good entertainment when he has a good team and when he actually uses employs a talented screenwriter.  Using an actual screenwriter in a series rather than having the director double as the screenwriter is rare, but it great assists in the proper development of story and characters.  This definitely an advantage to this miniseries as a majority of the dialogue is well-crafted and serves to develop character personalities and character motivations without having them fall into stereotypes or pre-determined molds.  Also, the conversations among the characters drive the plot forward rather than having them tossed along by random circumstances.  The premise of the story is also realistic and believable, including the portrayal of churches.  There is also quite a bit accomplished in the story without narration, and the Christian messaging is very poignant and on point.  However, there are a few drawbacks to this plot, including some slightly boring elements in the first episode and some scenes that feel like they’re just kicking the can down the road instead of developing the characters deeper like a series should be able to due to having more time to do so.  One example of this is one too many off-screen characters that are only talked about rather than seen, but this could be due to budget constraints.  There are also other opportunities for content enhancement, and while the ending is effective, it’s somewhat vague, but it definitely does its job.  As a whole, this is easily the best Christian series to date and a great opportunity for Kevan Otto to start afresh in his entertainment ambitions.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

The acting of The Prayer Box is definitely one of its strongest points.  This includes surprisingly good child and teenager acting and arguably the best performances to date from Carey Scott and Reginald VelJohnson.  The only drawbacks here are some slightly overdone makeup from some cast members and some slightly under-performed scenes, but it’s nothing too major.

Continuity Quality (2 points)

One big question with The Prayer Box is whether or not it really needed to be a series since it only has two total hours of runtime.  While it’s great to create a miniseries out of a book to release it directly to PureFlix on Demand rather than making a half-baked direct-to-DVD film no one will ever see since this is something we absolutely need to see more of, it’s hard to see why a two-hour series was needed.  If the funding allowed, more runtime would have been good to further develop the characters if at all possible.  However, despite these minor nitpicks, the flow of this series is mostly good except for a few abrupt episode endings.  As a whole, it’s refreshing to see a series, albeit a short one, that is committed to above average continuity and flow between episodes.

Conclusion

Even though The Prayer Box is a very basic and generic storyline, this is just the tip of the iceberg of what can be done when streaming series employ true screenwriters to create content.  Trisha Mammen definitely has a lot of talent as a screenwriter, and Kevan Otto has definitely found a new stride in his career that needs to continue; it’s highly possible that this film could have made the Hall of Fame as a film.  Though we’ve criticized Otto in the past for his poorly created films like A Question of FaithGrace of GodIn the Name of GodOnline, Lukewarm, Decision, and WWJD 1 and 2, after The Prayer Box, it’s possible that his future entertainment ventures could be transformed with a second wind of much better source material and more well-funded productions.  It just goes to show that anyone can make a turnaround with better resources and that we are always willing to recognize improvement and success – no matter who it comes from.

Final Rating: 9 out of 14 points