Taken by Grace [2013] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

While Shawn and Carrie Everett are trying to reconnect as a couple on a camping trip, they are suddenly approached by a mysterious man who talks cryptically to them before pulling out a gun and threatening them to take him where he wants to go.  As Shawn and Carrie agree to help him and as the man continues to babble on about various topics, they begin to get a picture of what this man is all about.  They eventually see him as a desperate man, not a criminal, and concoct a plan to try to intervene in his path of destruction.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

How is it possible that certain PureFlix movies have better production than others?  In Taken by Grace, there are few production problems to mention.  The camera work is good, and the video quality is clear.  Audio quality passes the test of authenticity.  The suspenseful musical score is highly effective.  Even though there are few sets, they are used well.  The only major production issue is, of course, editing.  Too many scenes feel cut short and unfinished.  Overall, while this film would have greatly improved with better editing, it’s still a production effort to be proud of.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

In this highly dialogue-driven psychological mystery, Bradley Dorsey does not disappoint when it comes to creativity.  Most creators could not handle writing long dialogue scenes for just a handful of characters sitting around in vehicles talking, but the philosophical and psychological elements win out.  While the characters could have been developed better, they are adequate enough.  Unfortunately, there are some typical mystery pitfalls, such as easy coincidences and ‘leads’ that are stumbled upon.  Another major problem is that there is too much wasted time and jumping back and forth.  The minor subplots are underdeveloped and almost seem forced.  Even though the creative concept behind this plot is great, it’s not enough by itself; there needs to be something added to it.  Basically, though it has many great strengths, Taken by Grace is an incomplete idea that needs a remake.

Acting Quality (2 points)

Mental health problems are actually portrayed very well through some of the acting in this film, and are not completely overdone like you would expect from a PureFlix film.  However, sometimes emotions are forced and unbelievable.  We have to question whether or not Bradley Dorsey should star in all of his films, as he seems to always underperform his potential.  But overall, this cast isn’t half bad.

Conclusion

In typical Bradley Dorsey fashion, Taken by Grace walks the line between brilliant creativity and amateurish mistakes.  All the films he’s involved are rooted in a deep and profound concept that challenges Christian movie conventions and genres.  He always employs psychological elements that should be found in many more Christian films.  But little mistakes always hold back his ideas from being all that they could be.  As is the case with Meant to Be, Taken by Grace could have been an awesome Hall of Fame film with just a few things changed and with a deeper storyline.  We hope in the future that Bradley Dorsey and company will take that next step to greatness, because Christian film desperately needs it.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

 

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Love Finds a Home (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Dr. Belinda Owens agrees to let her now-pregnant medical school friend Dr. Annie Watson stay with her while Annie’s husband goes out of town for a short-term job.  Believing that his wife needs help, Lee Owens sends for Annie’s controlling mother-in-law, who is impressed with her natural midwife advice, as opposed to Belinda’s medical training.  In the midst of this, Lee feels himself torn between worrying about his wife’s desire for a child and his new apprentice’s interest in his adopted daughter Lillian.  In the end, they must all learn to work together as they face a medical emergency and other small town tragedies.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

As the main Love Comes Softly series comes to a close, the production is no better than it ever was, only coming in at average.  The video quality is just okay, and the camera work is stock.  The musical score is generic.  The sets and locations are pretty good, but are still quite limited.  Costuming and makeup are not terribly authentic.  The editing is not up to par, but as we will see next, there really wasn’t much to work with.  In summary, the production quality of Love Finds a Home is not as bad as it could be, but with the resources available to Hallmark, it should be better.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

There is no way to quantify what the true plot of Finds a Home is.  There is no driving storyline or compelling arcs.  This story is a collection of recycled inspirational frontier scenes and incidents, interspersed with discussions on medical lingo.  There are too many disjointed subplots thrown together, so that the movie hops from one thing to the next without creating a common theme or giving the audience a reason to keep watching.  In this final installment, Love Comes Softly boils down to a generic family-friendly cable show or a frontier television program rerun.  The dialogue is straightforward and non-compelling, thus creating cardboard characters.  A bunch of stuff happens and gets resolved just in time for the movie to be over.  It doesn’t even end like a typical Love movie, but just stutters to an inevitable conclusion that leaves the viewer wondering what happened to this movie saga that once had such great potential.

Acting Quality (1 point)

With the complete exit of Dale Midkiff and Erin Cottrell from the franchise, the acting is certainly not terrible, but neither is it dynamic.  Line delivery is procedural and emotions are absent.  As previously mentioned, the vanity of these ‘frontier’ characters does not cease.  In the end, poor acting, combined with bad plots, ultimately was the demise of this otherwise epic saga.

Conclusion

The Love Comes Softly saga limped to a close with this eighth installment, another movie that borrowed the title and some character from a Janette Oke book and completely disregarded the original plot that was far more interesting than another generic Hallmark movie.  Gone are epic journeys and conflicts, just another small 19th century town filled with people doing stuff.  Having finally fulfilled a commitment to rip off all eight of Oke’s better novels, Hallmark then set their sights on a new money-making venture: prequels and sequels!

 

Final Rating: 2.5 out of 10 points

Love Takes Wing (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Following the tragic death of her husband, Belinda Simpson travels to a small town in Missouri to both visit her medical school friend and to become the town’s doctor.  However, the townspeople do not know what to think about having a woman doctor.  Also, Belinda discovers that the town is currently embroiled in a cholera epidemic that they cannot seem to control.  Teaming up with a local blacksmith she might be falling for, Belinda also feels compassion for an orphan girl who reminds her of herself at that age.  In the face of adversity, Belinda must stand up and fight for what she believes in.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

With an entirely different production team, the Love Comes Softly saga takes a different turn and loses its original intent to put a good face on poorly constructed plots.  There is a significant drop in production quality, with barely average video quality, unprofessional camera work, poor lighting, and inconsistent sound quality.  Props and costuming become obviously cheap in Love Takes Wing.  Historical authenticity hovers around the same level it has been throughout the latter half of the franchise.  The only thing that keeps the production from being terrible is the okay editing and the fact that the whole thing could really be worse.  At this point, with the complete departure of Michael Landon Jr., it is extremely obvious that Hallmark is just fulfilling a contract or some type of commitment to force movies bearing titles of Janette Oke books to happen.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

It has been stressed throughout this series of reviews that Hallmark and company took great creative license with Oke’s original plots, but Love Takes Wing hits a new low by replicating the basic plot structure of Love’s Unending Legacy.  This structure is as follows: the female lead’s husband from the previous film dies between movies, prompting the female lead to move to a different town, where she finds a widespread conflict to solve with a new broken male lead she will marry in the end after an empty and meaningless courtship.  Also, the female lead adopts an orphan girl.  At this point, it’s painfully obvious that Hallmark is addicted to itself and to its obsession for creating empty romances and courtships that inevitably end in a ‘fairytale’ wedding before the audience can even determine whether or not their basically empty marriage will even last (essentially, that’s the state of marriage in America).  But I digress.  In short, there’s really nothing else to discuss here—overtly copied plots get automatic zero points, especially when it’s contained within the same movie saga.

Acting Quality (1 point)

On a more positive note, the acting quality slighting improves in this installment.  The costuming and makeup is not so extravagant.  Dale Midkiff’s absence is refreshing.  However, there are still obvious problems, such as the poor Belinda replacement.  If you’re going to replace an actress, at least try to keep some measure of continuity so the audience doesn’t have to guess who’s who.  Overall, the acting isn’t really that great in Takes Wing, which warrants another low score.

Conclusion

It should be noted that avid Love Comes Softly didn’t even fully enjoy Love Takes Wing.  Hallmark apparently thinks people want to see the same exact plot over and over again.  In our opinion, production companies should think better of their audiences and not dumb entertainment down to such levels.  As the Love Comes Softly series sputters to an end, we offer this advice to Christian film-makers: please, please, please be original with your plots.  God has given us creativity, let’s use it wisely.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points