Plot summary: This film follows detective Travis Burke and college professor Amy Winslow as they travel through time to solve crimes. This, the second movie in the series, is rumored to feature crossover scenes with the When Calls the Heart franchise.
It seems like Zach and Dave Truett have always been dealt a bad hand in life. Their mother died, and their father soon after fell into alcoholism. Dave suffers from a medical condition, so when Zach tears his ACL at a party, his chances of a football scholarship, their only clear way out of their small town, are jeopardized. This forces Zach to do the soul-searching he had always avoided since their mother died, and it leads the brothers to unexpected places.
Production Quality (2 points)
As the first production funded and facilitated by the Tebow brothers, they have definitely shown that they can aggregate funds and put them to fairly good use. For the most part, this production is quite good and hits all the right notes, including good video quality, effective camera work, professional audio quality, and a great soundtrack. Sets, locations, and props are also adequately used and constructed. While the music is good, one drawback is the many dizzying sports montages that seem to eat up most of the runtime. Because of the time spent on this part, other scenes in the film are awkwardly and abruptly cut off with poor transitions. However, on the whole, this is an above-average production that is great for a first time effort.
Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)
Unfortunately, the money put into the production didn’t reflect well in the plot department. While something good is trying to be portrayed in this story, it doesn’t come through well at all, mostly due to the quick, clipped scenes that leave little room for proper development. Much of the dialogue refers to off-screen content or is very punctuated; this makes for awkward conversations that are inadequate in building characters effectively. While there are some attempts to take a real look at issues facing small towns in America and the people in them, too much time is spent on sports and training montages, which makes for a fairly choppy story presentation that doesn’t flow very well at all. There are too many missed opportunities as mindless sequences crowd the runtime, and many of the characters are too basic and one-dimensional. Difficult topics are mishandled with cliches, and unexpected time jumps leave the viewer disoriented to the story’s progression. Besides a handful of good scenes near the end of the film, this movie mainly talks about things without really showing them to you and fixes things without any heart behind them. In better screenwriting hands, this could have been a great exploration of relevant issues facing ordinary people, but we are left wondering what could have been.
Acting Quality (1.5 points)
On the whole, the acting of this film could have been good, and while there aren’t any glaring errors, it’s still a bit thin. Better coaching would have likely brought out the potential in the cast members, and even so, it’s not as bad as it could have been. However, it’s not really dynamic either, which makes this an average section that rounds off a middle-of-the-road film.
In summary, Run the Race is fine for a freshman film effort, but with higher standards being set in the Christian entertainment market, new film makers will need to aim higher if they want to make their mark. Good productions have become more of a benchmark than they once were, and acting should at least be above average. The films that will truly set themselves apart moving forward are those that have dynamic plots and effective storytelling techniques. Perhaps in the their next attempt, the Tebow brothers can wield their fundraising skills to support a truly talented screenwriter.
For starters, like most films that need remakes, Where Hope Grows has a poor budget allocation. The camera work needs a total rework, and the presence of a substantial soundtrack would have also helped things along. Post-production elements, such as editing, also need to be renovated, as the way the plot is presented is a bit disorienting at times. Overall, this film had a very indie feel to it, which is not always bad, but the lack of proper funding crippled this film’s full potential.
Plot and Storyline Improvements
The plot of Where Hope Grows also has some work to do. There is a disproportionate amount of time spent on the woes of troubled characters. Although this is a realistic approach, it’s not always done in a tasteful way. This is billed as a family film, but the audience therein will likely be disappointed by the slightly overdone amount of edgy content that lacks a proper amount of redemption to help things. Also, even though the characters are realistic in many ways, their dialogue needs deepening in order to assist the audience in relating to them better as people. For example, some flashbacks could have aided us in understanding the motivations of the characters rather than having another scene of the main character acting drunk. Also, as previously mentioned, the disorganization of this plot is a drag on the experience and blunts the full impact of the otherwise good ending. Essentially, a total rewrite of this plot by the right person could have put this film on the Hall of Fame.
This film’s important message regarding special needs people is reinforced by the excellent casting of a special needs actor. Though there are some overly heated emotional moments that could use some toning down, this section is overall the most reliable section of the movie.
Where Hope Grows was closer to greatness than a lot of films with twice its budget. This level of commitment to raw, imperfect characters is hard to come by in the plastic Christian market. However, there is a balance to find between extremely fake and extremely realistic. Perhaps a future Christian film maker can use this film as a model for how to walk the line between the two in order to make a truly dynamic film.
Billy Graham is one of the most influential evangelists of all time, but he did not begin that way. He had his own sports dreams and aspirations, but God got his attention and sent him on the path He wanted him to be on. As Billy pursued education he felt that God wanted him to have, he was influenced greatly by a leading evangelist of the day, Charles Templeton. Billy also met the girl of his dreams, Ruth, and the two of them began a life together. But as God gave Billy more influence and opportunity, he and Charles found themselves at odds over a crisis of faith that would influence Billy’s ministry forever.
Production Quality (2 points)
As a semi-professional production, it’s clear that a lot of effort was put into Billy: The Early Years. Video quality, camera work, and audio quality are all fine and on standard. Good attempts are made to make the soundtrack historically authentic. Though some of the sets are limited, the props also demonstrate historical authenticity and the locations are mostly good. The biggest drawback to this production is the poor editing job, but this is understandable since so much content is tried to be included. Overall, this is an acceptable production that shows good effort.
Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)
Even though a small portion of Billy Graham’s life is chosen for this film, it’s still too much to handle as the story is mostly based upon montages and sneak peeks at larger stories that we don’t see enough of. The plot rushes through time very quickly and jumps from high point to high point. It’s framed in a very odd way that almost focuses as much on Charles Templeton as on Billy Graham, which is fine, except the movie is framed as a Billy Graham biopic. Regardless, as time speeds along in this film, there is no time to get to know the characters properly, so we are forced to settle with cheap dialogue and one-dimensional people. Despite the time jumps, there are still too many meaningless sequences and scenes of unnecessary and unrelated content that has no bearing on anything. In the end, this is a commendable effort to retell a very important historical story, yet it’s executed very poorly.
Acting Quality (1 point)
Since the characters are given very little development, the cast members are forced to make up for lost time, yet they do so in unprofessional fashions. In attempts to be ‘interesting’, the cast members come off a very over the top and quirky, as if they are trying way too hard. Though the costuming is realistic for the historical period, the makeup is way too loud. In short, this creative team gets an E for Effort, but not much else.
Historical plots are important and are often hard to pull off well. This story in particular is very important to the history of American Christianity, yet many audiences will be disappointed in the slapped-together nature of this movie that even drew (thankfully) honest criticism from Billy’s son Franklin. It would have been great to get to know these historical figures are people rather than cardboard cutouts, but this was not the case. Maybe one day someone will retell this story in a better way.
Calvin is a down on his luck ex-pro baseball player who has been struggling to get his career back on track ever since he blew it in a big game. He’s addicted to alcohol and has a strained relationship with his daughter. He’s aimless in life until he randomly meets a young man with Downs syndrome working at a local grocery store. Named Produce, he immediately forms an unlikely bond with Calvin and begins to unknowingly challenge him to live better. In talking with Produce, Calvin begins to have a whole new outlook on life—one that doesn’t revolve around himself. But as the challenges and struggles facing them get tougher, they will each have to choose how they are going to respond in order to determine where they will end up in life.
Production Quality (1 point)
Where Hope Grows is severely under-funded. It’s painfully obvious that one main camera is used and that it is not stationary or mechanically movable, as the shots frequently shake around. The video quality is also B-grade, but not as bad as it could be. The sound is inconsistent, but mostly stays good. Perhaps one of the biggest production issues is the painful absence of a soundtrack. If this film had a musical score, it would be greatly improved. On the upside, the sets and locations are good; the crew demonstrates a commitment to making everything look realistic rather than getting stuck in a few cheesy sets. However, the editing is unfortunately very confusing, making the storyline hard to follow. Overall, the production shows that this film was not a throw together and it feels like the crew did the best they could with what they had. We only wish they had more funds to work with.
Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)
There is a lot of great content in this plot that doesn’t seem to live up to its full potential. The concept of this film is very ingenious in an inspirational market that is flooded with pedestrian movies. It accurately and realistically (sometimes too realistically) portrays real issues facing ordinary people, whether special needs people or ex-professional athletes and their families. However, it is sometimes too hard to connect with the characters because the plot is too choppy to create an environment conducive to character development. Dialogue is too inconsistent—sometimes profound and other times understated and isolating. There are too many portions of the plot that are either too short or not explained well enough. There are also too many points where the audience is tempted to turn off the movie because it’s too confusing or too raw. But if you do make it to the end, there is actually a very creative intersection of the characters that partially makes it all worth it. This portion of the film is the best because it is well thought out but it is also frustrating to watch, knowing how much better it could be. Elsewhere, as previously mentioned, there is too much raw and sometimes crude content in this film—even though this definitely realistic, it should be presented in a more palatable way. In summary, there are many ways in which Where Hope Grows could have been a better film and we really wish a remake would be made.
Acting Quality (2 points)
Surprisingly, the acting is the strongest point of this movie. It is so rare to cast a special needs person in a film, so the casting of David DeSanctis is both groundbreaking and highly appropriate. The remainder of the cast sometimes lives up the acting genius of DeSanctis and sometimes they do not. Emotional delivery is pretty good throughout, but sometimes it is over the top. Therefore, the acting quality is overall above average.
In Christian and inspirational film, there is a list of movies that are frustrating to watch because they exhibit far more potential than they produce. These films should all be up for remakes, and Where Hope Grows is one of those. Special needs people need to be portrayed properly in movies; this is one way that this film breaks barriers. If it had more money behind it and less crude content, we can’t help but think that it would have been Hall of Fame worthy and extremely successful in inspirational circles. But alas, we are left with another film that could have been.