Peter Ranos has always tried to make the big break in Hollywood, but lately, nothing seems to be working out for him and his wife. They’ve hit every financial bump possible, and no one wants to cut them a break. When they just about exhaust all of their options and almost get by, something else hits them from the blind side. Peter is eventually brought to his knees as he realizes he can’t do it on his own anymore, which forces him to return to his childhood faith that he abandoned when his father suddenly died.
Production Quality (2 points)
For a first-time, low-funded production, Heavenly Deposit is able to at least breach the average line, which is something we’re seeing more of in more modern Christian entertainment. Though it begins a little rough with some roving camera work and abrupt cuts, it overall improves as the film progresses. The soundtrack is a bit inconsistent at times, and the sets, props, and locations are somewhat limited in the beginning, but it becomes clear by the middle of the movie that the creators did have something better in mind. They do the best with what they have, and the video quality is stable throughout as well as the audio quality. The camera work and the editing calms down, and the sets become better utilized in the second half. Though it does begin a bit rough, it’s encouraging to see that this production team can improve as the film goes on, which shows good potential for future projects. In the end, this production makes enough improvements to warrant an above-average rating, and this isn’t bad considering the budget and experience of the creators.
Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)
From the get-go, the protagonist forces unnecessary narration on the audience, but it thankfully subsides until the epilogue. It’s great that the writers were able to base this story off of true events because, for the most part, it does feel like realistic circumstances everyday people would experience. This gives the plot a non-linear and non-typical feel, and the premise is down-to-earth. However, in the first half of the film, the dialogue comes off as a bit generic as it doesn’t do quite enough to deepen the characters beyond stereotypical roles. Since this is a character-based story with a handful of characters, we needed deeper personalities and motives for them rather than run-of-the-mill placeholders that feel swept along by the plot. Granted, we do see more authenticity from the characters in the second half of the film as the creators’ true intentions are revealed, but it’s difficult for most viewers to stick with it that long without something substantial to hold onto. Because the first 30-45 minutes tends to meander without major themes, the good messages and understanding of real struggles depicted in the remainder of the runtime may be lost to many people. In a similar vein, though the story does become more focused as it goes, there are a few too many slightly silly coincidences and head-scratching magical elements that tend to put a damper on things. Also, the last 10 minutes rush through a lot of content with the aim of fixing things, but as a whole, this story is good enough to make the film average.
Acting Quality (2 points)
Like other elements in the film, the acting does get better with time. It does feel like this cast really cares about doing their best, and they are willing to be coached in some ways. There’s nothing dynamic happening here, but it’s refreshing to see a cast that’s not trying to flaunt something. The main drawback to highlight here is some weird hair and makeup work in the beginning, but as usual, this gets better later in the movie. As a whole, Heavenly Deposit is a good place to start for film makers who have potential to do even better.
Some entertainment creators are better with series than movies (see Dallas Jenkins and company). It’s highly possible that George Vincent and his crew fit into this category as well, and with the growth of Christian streaming services like PureFlix and VidAngel, creative teams have a lot more options than they once did. Thus, with more time and better budgeting, we have high hopes for what Vincent and his team can produce next.
Producer(s): Athena Boulgarides, Andy Gellert, Amit Gupta, Rick Irvin, Sung Lee, Lyndsay Lowe, Louie Mandrapilias, Wendy J. Nelson, Christy Teichmann, George Vincent, George Zouvelos
Starring: John Savage, Barry Van Dyke, Ella Joyce, Peter Jason, Meredith Thomas, Frank Ashmore, Benjamin Onyango, Alisa Reyes, Bonnie Hellman, Chalet Lizette Brannan
Plot Synopsis: Thanks to his father’s death when he was a young boy, Peter doesn’t believe in God. Fast-forward a few years, and he’s a struggling actor who just can’t catch a break — until an encounter with the divine rocks his entire world.
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.
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.