Ragamuffin [2014] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Rich Mullins never fit in as a kid, especially when it came to his father’s lofty expectations for him.  As a young boy, his father usually criticized him for not being the boy he wanted him to be since Rich much preferred the piano over the tractor.  Thus, when Rich had a chance to strike out on his own, he took it and sought to express his artistry wherever he went.  However, when his music became famous virtually overnight, he wasn’t able to handle the success.  In the end, he had to discover Who God really is in order to free from the past.

Production Quality (2 points)

As a whole, this is a respectable, above-average production, starting with the artistic camera work that serves to enhance the overall experience.  Although scenes are sometimes unnecessarily dark, as well as black and white, this isn’t too big of an issue since the video quality is overall clear.  The audio quality is also a plus, and the soundtrack is okay even though it could have been better due to this film being about Rick Mullins.  For the most part, the sets, locations, and props are well-constructed and well-utilized such that the story feels real.  Further, there are a few awkward cuts, but the editing is overall fine considering the large amount of content covered in this movie.  In the end, this is an acceptable production, especially for the time period, yet it could have done a little but more.  Even still, it does enough to make the film enjoyable.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

The life of Rich Mullins was definitely worth portraying in the context of film, and you could say this film was made before I Can Only Imagine started a new trend of Christian artist biopics.  Within Ragamuffin, there is an excellent exploration of real family of origin problems that exist in small town America as well as the emotional struggles of a performer while traveling on the road.  Thus, the plot contains great life philosophies and an artistic look at things, yet it’s bogged down with early and intermediate narration that tells us things without showing them.  Sometimes, expository dialogue is also used to save time due to the large amount of content that’s covered in this story, but there’s still a great exploration of relevant, authentic issues that many people struggle with.  Hence, the characters are raw and good even if they could have been better without so much narration, exposition, and time jumps that only allow a cursory glance at elements that need more focus.  Although some of the scenes could have been used better, Ragamuffin is still a believable journey of mental health, substance abuse, and relationship issues that come as a result of toxic family messages.  There’s also an honest portrayal of church problems in the 1990s that confused a lot of Christians, and the good parts of the dialogue are very worthwhile.  Near the end, there’s a collection of exquisite psychological sequences that make the entire film worth your time, but it would have been better to see substantial build-up to these.  In the end, this is a great film because of the topic it’s based on; there are plenty of opportunities for improvement, but it’s still enjoyable as it is.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Like other portions of the movie, the acting of Ragamuffin could be a bit better than it is, mostly by being more dynamic and less static.  There are some sequences of blank emotions, but on the whole, emotional experience is adequate.  The lead actor takes on the role of Rich Mullins quite well, and other cast members assume their respective roles with ease.  In summary, this film had a lot going for it that helped it rack up plenty of good marks, but there’s still more that could have been done here.

Conclusion

Basically, Ragamuffin is in desperate need of a remake because it was made before Christians were beginning to learn how to tell stories well in movies.  It’s a face value, here-are-the-plain-facts approach to things, but modern Christian entertainment demands more.  We can tell stories better than this; even so, Ragamuffin was ahead of its time for taking on an unpopular topic in Christianity in a time when everything was assumed to be fine, so for this reason alone, it’s worth your time.  We’d like to see the creators of this film collaborate with a good team because they could do great things together.

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

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2015 Box Office Revolution Awards

Every year, movies are released and cast members show off their talents.  Writers and directors showcase their creativity.  Films are separated into roughly three groups: the truly talented, the potentially great, and the others.  At Box Office Revolution, we believe it is our prerogative to annually recognize those movie makers and players who have the ability to bring revolution to Christian entertainment.

 

Reader’s Choice Movie of the Year: War Room

Runners-up: Woodlawn, Beyond the Mask, Old-Fashioned

 

Staff Choice Movie of the Year: Woodlawn

Runners-up: War Room, Old-Fashioned, Beyond the Mask

 

Staff Choice Actor of the Year: Caleb Castille (Woodlawn)

Runners-up: T. C. Stallings (War Room), Sean Astin (Woodlawn), Andrew Cheney (Beyond the Mask), Rik Swartzwelder (Old-Fashioned), Nic Bishop (Woodlawn)

 

Staff Choice Actress of the Year: Priscilla Shirer (War Room)

Runners-up: Karen Abercrombie (War Room), Kara Killmer (Beyond the Mask), Elizabeth Roberts (Old-Fashioned)

 

Staff Choice Directors of the Year: Andrew Erwin\Jon Erwin (Woodlawn)

Runners-up: Chad Burns (Beyond the Mask), Rik Swartzwelder (Old-Fashioned), Alex Kendrick (War Room)

 

Staff Choice Writers of the Year: Paul McCusker\Stephen Kendrick\Brennon Smith\Aaron Burns\Chad Burns (Beyond the Mask)

Runners-up: Rik Swartzwelder (Old-Fashioned), Jon Erwin\Todd Geralds\Quinton Peeples\Mark Schlabach (Woodlawn), Alex Kendrick\Stephen Kendrick (War Room)

 

Staff Choice Soundtrack of the Year: Woodlawn

Runners-up: War Room, Old-Fashioned, Beyond the Mask

Old-Fashioned (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Clay is a simple guy running a simple antique shop in rural Ohio.  He’s not looking for love when he rents out the upstairs apartment to Amber, an itinerant wandering woman about his age.  But when she becomes curious about Clay’s ‘theory’ regarding dating and marriage, Amber keeps coming up with reasons to talk to him, even though he will not allow them to be in the apartment alone together.  Eventually, she convinces him to go on a date with her, but she has no idea what she is in store for.  Beginning with a premarital counseling session, continuing by going over the premarital counseling workbook, and finishing with practice on feeding food to a toddler, their first date is less than typical.  As the two begin to spend more time together, their checkered pasts are exposed as they both try to come to grips with who they are in Christ.  Everything comes to a head when both Clay and Amber are forced to move beyond their sins of the past in Christ’s strength in order to embrace His new future for them.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

As a debuting film for Rik Swartzwelder and the Skoche Films team, Old-Fashioned is huge in a good way.  The camera work is excellent, as is the editing.  The film as an artistic undertone that is fueled by subtle camera shots, scenic overlays, and thinking scenes.  The musical score is engaging.  The only issue to raise here is that some scenes seem to last longer than they should.  Overall, this is not a cheap production.  It is simple yet profound.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

The plot is linear, straightforward, and somewhat predictable.  However, Skoche did everything they could do with it.  This is a very deep plot, rather than a wide and shallow plot.  Swartzwelder and team maximized on every opportunity to make this usually typical plot structure as good as it could be.  The dialogue is excellent and drives the plot, as it should.  It also develops deep, believable, and realistic characters.  There are no real plot twists and the only flaw of the plot is that it is fairly predictable.  Otherwise, the plot is highly professional.

Acting Quality (3 points)

There are no high-profile actors in Old-Fashioned, yet they are obviously well-coached and well-trained.  Absent from this movie is typical PureFlix acting, and it is replaced with professional talent that defies convention.  There are few characters in the movie, which perhaps gave the directors the opportunity to develop each actor well.  Fewer characters also keeps with the movie’s theme of having quality over quantity.

Conclusion

In summary, quality over quantity is the theme of the first box office installment of Skoche Films.  Box Office Revolution was pleasantly surprised that PureFlix discovered the rare talent of Rik Swartzwelder and gave him the space to create without intrusion.  His first movie is a rare gem in a desert of mediocrity.  Old-Fashioned can be reasonably christened a modern-day Pride and Prejudice with a Christian worldview.

 

Final Rating: 8 out of 10 points