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

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Fireproof (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Caleb Holt is successful in his career as a fire captain.  He will risk his life for anyone, but he does not care about his marriage as it begins to fall apart around him.  His wife, Catherine, has a successful career of her own and she is tired of the conflicts she continues to have with her husband.  All Caleb seems to care about is his job, saving up for his boat, and looking for fulfillment from places other than his wife.  Catherine is lonely and becoming hardened to her husband as she tries to care for her elderly parents and directs her attentions towards a nice doctor at the hospital she works at who gives her more attention than Caleb does.  Caleb is ready to throw in the towel before his father steps in and gives him a forty-day challenge, The Love Dare, to try to save his marriage before signing the divorce papers.  Little do Caleb and Catherine know that they are in for changes and trials beyond their marital discord.

 

Production Quality (3 points)

In keeping with the production spirit of Facing the Giants, Fireproof does not disappoint.  The higher budget is maintained and even expanded, and it pays off.  Difficult firefighting scenes are successfully executed, and diverse sets are used.  The editing is concise, making for an easy viewing.  As is the Kendrick norm, there are no caveats here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

Another Kendrick movie, another solid Christian message packaged in a believable real-life plot executed by realistic characters.  The plot is not too preachy as it is both evangelistic and discipling towards Christians.  Strengthening weak and broken marriages is a very important message for viewers today, both Christian and non-Christian.  This could not have been pulled off without imperfect and accessible characters, which there are in his movie.  The usual comedy scenes are included.  Yet there are a few caveats here.  The plot is more linear than usual for Kendrick plots and the dialogue is lacking in some areas.  But even with these issues, Fireproof makes other movies pale in comparison.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

The Kendricks departed from their usual model of only using ‘inexperienced’ actors by bringing in Kirk Cameron, but the transition is seamless.  This is likely Cameron’s finest acting work to date.  The same can be said for co-star Erin Bethea.  The supporting cast is no worse in talent than these two, thus reflecting acting coaching success for the Kendrick crew.

Conclusion

Even when the Kendricks are not at their finest, they still rise to the top in the Christian movie industry.  As their career has progressed, their quality has improved in all areas.  Fireproof marked a huge turning point in many ways, if not only for their tackling of a timely message that many Christian movies either ignore or portray incorrectly.  Yet this installment was only a harbinger of greater things to come.

 

Final Rating: 7.5 points