Movie Renovation: Love’s Abiding Joy

Image result for love's abiding joy

Image result for love's abiding joy

Image result for love's abiding joy
“Dancin’ is a good excuse to wrap your arms around a pretty woman” ~Dale Midkiff

Production Improvements

Michael Landon Jr. continues to provide good production quality in this movie series, however, it remains his only strength. However, as our founder pointed out in his review, the editing is atrociously choppy, and you guessed it, the makeup and costuming is overdone. Landon Jr.’s attempt at historical accuracy in makeup and costuming begins to diminish in this film, and worsens in the later ones. Erin Cottrell has too much makeup on for us to believe she is living out West, and Dale Midkiff looks like he just stepped out of a spa, not a stagecoach. However, these flaws could have been overlooked if the original plot had been upheld. 

Plot & Storyline Improvements

Where to begin? There is nothing in this plot that is remotely accurate to the book. First, the book opens with Clark and Marty in their 40’s, with adult children and several grandchildren. Marty receives a gift of train tickets to see Missie from Clark for her birthday, and the two journey there. The movie opens with Missie and Willie married with an older adopted son, young son, and baby daughter. Marty is completely absent from the film, and Clark has just arrived for a visit. Within the first thirty minutes of the film the baby girl dies, leading him to extend his trip. In the book, Missie and Willie had two young sons, and more hands than they did in the previous novel, not less (as is portrayed in the movie). I have already mentioned that Jeff was not in the book, so reinforcing this point is null. The movie plot continues with the Lahayes grieving individually for their daughter, including Erin Cottrell screaming in a field, and Dale Midkiff offering cliches as reassurance. In the book, Clark and Marty enjoy meeting Missie’s new friends and neighbors before Clark becomes involved in trying to rescue two boys from a collapsed mine. He severely injures his leg in the process, and it is amputated by a doctor-in-hiding who also happens to be Missie’s best friend’s husband. This extends the Davis’ visit and puts things back home on hold. In the movie, the plot meanders between the grieving parents, the evil rich guy, and Jeff’s forbidden love interest with no real direction or point. In short, this movie never should have been made, and it is fruitless to continue to point out it’s many flaws, for this will help no one. 

Acting Improvements

Recast everyone and make this a TV series. This is the best way to fix this disaster. There is not much else to say here. The cast of this film is inaccurate to the book and drags down the movie even further. 

Conclusion

In conclusion, because of the many errors, this movie deserves a remake. The original book content is worth it. Janette Oke should be a part of the filmmaking, especially the casting. The screenwriter should use the content in the book to create a TV series and make very few alterations 
(we still don’t know why MLJ didn’t think of this). There is enough content to make an entire season out of each book. As seen in When Calls the Heart, screenwriters can build an entire episode around much less! Filmmakers looking to make a historical romance TV series, look no further than this book series for content!

Movie Renovation: Love’s Long Journey

Image result for love's long journey
Image result for love's long journey
This is totally not a baby doll

Production Improvements

There are no errors here, Michael Landon Jr. has a talent for creating high quality productions. This part of the film is an example to others inspirational filmmakers of how to use your budget to it’s maximum potential. As he obviously has potential as a filmmaker, there is no reason for his mistakes in the others areas of the film. 

Plot & Storyline Improvements

This plot had potential, and there is nothing inherently wrong with Landon Jr.’s content – except that it is not accurate to the book. In some areas, he strays so far that one has to wonder if he even read the book before making the movie. The plot contains fairly believable secondary characters, humor, and a mostly realistic tale of married life. However, there are also many problems. First, Jeff and his brother are not in the book, neither are the other ‘bad guy’ characters. While this subplot was an interesting idea, it is not fully developed and is therefore unnecessary. Plus, the ‘bad guy’ characters are extremely cheesy. Second, Missie was throughout the entire duration of the journey by wagon, not just at the end. She was about seven months pregnant when they reached their destination, however, Willie wanted a doctor to deliver their baby – a fellow passenger died in childbirth on the trail and scared everyone – so he left her in town while he went on to hire hands and establish their homestead. Third, in the book, once she finally made it to Willie’s land, Missie had to live in a one-room sod house with the baby for two years before he made enough money to build a real house. In the movie, they fix up a small, already existing house on the land. Furthermore, the Native American subplot in the movie is completely fabricated and has nothing to do with the original story. Missie was not a teacher out West because there was no one to teach and she was busy surviving. She did have one neighbor, Maria, who was Mexican and had a husband and son. Maria did not speak English, so Missie taught her, and in return Maria familiarized Missie with her culture. Maria did not deliver Missie’s first son (whose name was Nathan Isaiah BTW), and that was not the only child Missie had. At the end of the novel it is mentioned that she is expecting another. Finally, there are also many instances where Missie and Willie share the gospel with those around them; this fact is completely deleted from the movie, with the exception of a few scenes where they are shown reading the Bible. Therefore, Landon Jr. could have improved this plot by using the content already written in the book, and by making this book series into a TV series, not a standalone film.

Acting Improvements

Oh, just when we thought it couldn’t possibly get worse, it did. Thank God Dale Midkiff’s scenes a brief and far between. We’ll never know why Erin Cottrell was chosen to replace January Jones, the former was a better actress and had more potential, even if she was a typical Landon female lead. Cottrell drags down the whole movie. Logan Bartholomew is slightly better in this movie than the previous one, but is still his awkward self. Cookie is a walking stereotype (he wasn’t African American in the book), and Henry was not a full-grown man with a checkered past in the book, he was a boy that the LaHayes hired to drive their second wagon while on the trail. On the whole, the acting in the movie is pretty bad, and the cast needs a complete redo. However, to their credit, they don’t have anyone to tell them how to improve.

Conclusion

In conclusion, because of the many errors here, this movie deserves a remake. The original book content is worth it. Janette Oke should be a part of the filmmaking, especially the casting. The screenwriter should use the content in the book to create a TV series and make very few alterations
(we still don’t know why MLJ didn’t think of this). There is enough content to make an entire season out of each book. As seen in When Calls the Heart, screenwriters can build an entire episode around much less! Filmmakers looking to make a historical romance TV series, look no further than this book series for content!

Movie Renovation: Love’s Enduring Promise

Image result for love's enduring promise movie

Image result for love's enduring promise movie
Pa needs me!

Production Improvements

Love’s Enduring Promise has great production quality, with realistic sets, a picturesque location, and great camera work. As our founder pointed out, the main issues here are some choppy editing and the usual unrealistic makeup jobs. Otherwise, this is the strongest area of the film. It is obvious that Michael Landon Jr. is a talented producer. However, as women had little to no access to makeup out West, and only took baths once a week to save water, there is work to do in the area of makeup and costuming. Additionally, after further observation of the book series’ content, I believe this book and the others should be joined together to make a TV series. I believe this is the only way all the content and the many characters could be included. In short, this book should never have been a standalone film.

Plot & Storyline Improvements

Where to begin? Michael Landon Jr. has drastically altered the book content in this film, so much so that it barely resembles the original story. First, he pieced together some obscure sub-plots in the final chapters of the novel – Missie went on a date with a man named Grant Thomas and eventually married Willie – and created his usual love triangle between Missie, Grant, and Willie. He purposely ignored the fact that Missie also went on dates with one of Ma Graham’s (Sarah in the movie, oh wait she’s not in this movie, another inaccuracy) sons for some time before going out with Willie, and that it took some time for her and Willie’s relationship to develop. Next, the core incident in the film – Clark cutting his leg with an axe while chopping firewood – never existed in the book. In the novel, there was an obscure sub-plot where Clark had a logging accident and cut his foot. This laid him up for a couple of weeks, but he was never unconscious or in critical condition. In the movie he has an infected limb and potential gangrene, in the book he had a cut that was stitched up, big deal. Finally, in the book Clark and Marty have three children together after becoming a real husband and wife. Arnie was one of their sons, but Landon Jr. forgot Ellie, Luke, and their adopted daughters Nandry and Clae. Nandry and Clae were adopted from a neglectful neighbor who was leaving to pan for gold and was easily convinced to give up his children. While the book content is a bit of an information dump, it would make several great episodes in a TV series. Considering that Landon Jr. has had much success with this in the past, I am flabbergasted as to why he didn’t think of this from the start. People are far more likely to watch TV than go see an obscure inspirational film. This is the main way in which he could have improved the plot and storyline quality. 

Acting Improvements

Again, there is so much bad here it is hard to know where to start. Dale Midkiff is a terrible actor, Katherine Heigl’s promising performance in the previous movie has declined considerably, and the child actors are grating. K’Sun Ray needed serious coaching to come off as anything but a whiny little kid, and it was not given to him. Arnie is barely in the film and has a forgettable performance at best. Logan Bartholomew is awkward and does not accurately portray the Willie character. Finally, January Jones shows potential as Missie, but delivers a mostly blank performance and needs coaching. Landon Jr. could have improved this section by giving Katherine Heigl a chance to improve, and recasting everyone else.

Conclusion

In conclusion, because of all the glaring errors here, this movie deserves a remake. The original book content is worth it. Janette Oke should be a part of the filmmaking, especially the casting. The screenwriter should use the content in the book to create a TV series and make very few alterations. There is enough content to make an entire season out of each book. As seen in When Calls the Heart, screenwriters can build an entire episode around much less! Filmmakers looking to make a historical romance TV series, look no further than this book series for content!

The Genesis Code (Movie Review)

The Cosmic Clock is ticking

Plot Summary

Blake Truman is a hockey star at his small school, Madison College, but he is an agnostic who doubts parts of the Bible, such as the Creation Account, because his mother lies in the hospital in a cancer coma.  However, Kerry Wells, a journalism student whose adviser keeps pestering her about joining the New World order, has been assigned to write a human interest piece on the star hockey player, which forces them to have awkward conversations about their beliefs and stuff they’ve done in life.  Kerry’s brother Marc, a spastic Physics major, also has his doubts about the Bible because he has trouble believing the literal Six-Day Creation theory.  Nevertheless, when Kerry’s father (the local pastor) tells her to read a random verse at dinner time (beef casserole night), she gets an idea of how Marc can use Quantum Physics theories to prove the essential doctrine of the literal Six-Day Creation.  Along the way, a whole bunch of other stuff happens, but you can see where this plot is obviously going.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

With $5 million spent on this glorified docu-drama, it’s no wonder the production was at least above average.  Camera work and video quality are on par with what they need to be, even if there is some poor audio throughout.  The soundtrack is fairly pedestrian, but sets, locations, and props are on industry standards.  There is some cheesy animation in some parts, and the editing is very choppy and disjointed, but it was likely very difficult to handle this large amount of unrelated content.  Overall, this production is fine, but there are plenty of other problems to discuss.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1 points)

Where to begin?  For one thing, it was very ill-advised to attempt to make this confusing conglomerate of scientific theories and message-pushing into a film.  The movie begins with lengthy sports montages and awkward conversations that showcase a total lack of proper dialogue.  This stilted dialogue causes the characters to be very mindless, and it goes without saying that this ‘story’ is extremely disorganized and schizophrenic in its presentation.  Trying to bundle Christmas, sports, stupid college stuff, the cancer plot, and the Christian-needs-to-use-arguments-to-convert-skeptic-characters storyline all into one film is just cutting yourself off at the knees before you even start.  Besides this, the “woe-is-us-we-have-first-world-persecution” complex that is evident throughout the film is grating and obnoxious.  The characters ride a ridiculous string of coincidences to lead them to “solve” the non-essential doctrine of Young-Earth Creationism by using deceptive theories masked as fact to attempt to reconcile the alleged divide between science and the Bible.  In doing so, a large portion of the movie is spent on quantum physics lectures that utilize flimsy comparisons and childish object lessons to drive home a questionable theory that does not need to be presented as scientific fact.  If this wasn’t bad enough, the cast of characters is replete with strawman non-Christian characters that possess the most absurd and ridiculous worldview-pushing lines.  It goes without saying that the predictable romantic and disease subplots run their expected course as they are padded with forced-humor filler scenes and useless flashbacks to things that just happened in the movie.  It all crashes to a predictable yet head-scratching conclusion that does very little to accomplish its goals of converting more people.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Logan Bartholomew and Kelsey Sanders post very weak lead performances, and a majority of the acting is very very dry, empty, mindless, awkward, and forced.  Line delivery is disjointed, and emotions are overly practiced.  Humor is extremely forced and annoying.  Overall, there is very little good to say about this disaster of a film.

Conclusion

The Genesis Code gets the honor of received a -1 X Factor Point just for being especially ridiculous.  This is a lesson that it is better to shy away from movie titles involving the word “code” coupled with the name of a book of the Bible (or a Bible-ish concept like The Omega Code).  Also, the important lesson that can be learned from this train wreck is that the God’s Not Dead-style of preaching to the choir and pretending to want to convert people with arguments is a dead end road.  Movies like Genesis Code expose the deeper problem among most Christian circles: a lack of understanding about real people.  People matter more than scientific theories, well-crafted arguments, or polished theology, no matter how true they may be.  Thus, it is extremely important to give audiences real and relatable characters that have realistic and accessible lives, choices, and motivations.  Until this happens on a consistent basis, Christian film (and Christian culture as a whole) will still be stuck in neutral.

 

Final Rating: 0 out of 10 points

 

The Ultimate Legacy {The Gift of a Legacy} (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a wealthy woman approaches Hamilton’s firm to construct a legal inheritance process similar to that of Red Stevens’ due to her terminal illness, Hamilton and Miss Hastings enlist Jason Stevens as a special consultant (?).  Within a month, the woman dies and her wild grandson, Joey, inherits her fortune and the famous Anderson House—with stipulations: he must agree to live at Anderson House for a year and complete a series of ‘gifts’ in order to receive his inheritance in full.  Skeptical and frustrated, Joey decides to play along with the will’s demands and suddenly find himself enjoying life in a whole new way.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

To put it frankly, the once respectable Ultimate Gift saga has been #Hallmarked.  The only positive aspects of this entire film is the decent camera work and video quality.  Otherwise, it’s all a wash.  The film is plagued by choppy and rushed editing, as disoriented viewers are taken on a roller coaster ride from one high point to the next.  The sets and surroundings are severely limited, rivaling Hidden Secrets for how long a random collection of unrelated characters can hang around a house together and be united by completing projects related to said house.  The sound quality is average and the soundtrack is typical Hallmark.  In short, corners were obviously cut in order for this made-for-television film to happen.  There is literally no justification for it.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Anything that was bad about The Ultimate Life has been taken to new lows.  Ultimate Legacy is the most obviously ridiculous stupid rip off of an original film in the history of Christian film.  Peppered with childish references to Gift and overt copycat concepts of the first installment, Legacy makes for a sadly comedic experience.  The movie is based on an unrealistic premise of people hanging around a house with nothing better to do than devote all of time to another unusual inheritance project.  Legacy is also based entirely on legal and ethical issues by shoehorning Jason Stevens into the plot, who should have no business whatsoever in the Anderson inheritance case.  A perpetually angry character later chides a fellow character for not adhering to attorney-client privilege.  The irony!  Speaking of characters, they are either empty shells from better movies gone by or useless and unexplained caricatures driven by empty and amateurish dialogue.  Other dialogue consists of isolating architectural lingo and the plastic insertion of a trite Christian message.  The plot has no direction whatsoever except to poorly mimic as much of Gift as possible through a rushed and choppy timeline.  The ending is beyond silly and follows Hallmark’s latest habit of departing from typical inspirational conventions to exchange them for empty fluff.  To sum this disaster up, forcing a third movie installment to occur should never happen, especially when it’s built entirely off of overtly and badly copying the original idea.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Hallmark brings with them their typical casting baggage: overdone makeup and zero coaching.  The actors and actresses from previous installments are painfully forced into this film and are joined by a new head-scratching cast that doesn’t seem to know why they are there.  Line delivery is lazy for the older cast members and forced for others.  Emotions are overblown by some, while others seem dazed and confused the whole time.  In short, no thought or effort was put into this casting job.

Conclusion

If Hallmark and PureFlix wanted to be partners in crime for the destruction of a film legacy (pun intended), they could have done so without forcibly inserting previously better characters into their creation.  At least let us leave those characters in a more palatable place (I never thought those words would describe The Ultimate Life) rather than drag them down into Christian movie Sheol (look it up).  The legacy (yes, I did it again) of Jim Stovall’s creative ideas is forever marred by two film conglomerates who now make money off of trolling their audiences.  The best thing we can do now is pretend like Life and Legacy never happened and remember better days, such as the original Hall of Fame movie The Ultimate Gift.  One day we hope that inspirational film giants such as Hallmark and PureFlix will no longer be able to get away with such unethical activity as this film.

 

Final Rating: .5 point out of 10 points

Love’s Abiding Joy (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Clark Davis makes a cross-country journey to visit the LaHaye’s cattle ranch, he finds a family trying to hold things together as they ride through tough financial times.  Problems are only compounded when the infant Kathy LaHaye dies suddenly of unknown causes.  Each family member is scattered from each other, dealing with grief in different unhealthy ways.  Willie is forced to take an extra job as the town sheriff as many local families are struggling to make ends meet under the firm grip of the cruel mayor Samuel Doros.  With so many negative circumstances pressing in around them, the Clark and the LaHayes will have to pull together and remember that the darkest times come right before the light.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Consistent with the previous Love Comes Softly films, the production quality of Love’s Abiding Joy is above average.  The video quality and sound quality are solid.  The camera work is professional.  However, there are some minor issues here, such as the stock musical score.  In keeping with a main Michael Landon Jr. error, the costuming, especially the makeup, is inconsistent with the historical period.  Also, the editing is very choppy, not giving any opportunity to truly engage in the story, as will be discussed further next.  But in sum, Abiding Joy looks good on the surface and is mostly good in this area.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

As previously alluded to, the plot seems like a collection of random scenes glued together.  It meanders without any real identity, forcing too many different issues together in one storyline.  In the midst of this, the tragic struggles of the characters cannot be connected with or accessed by the audience because they seem very shallow.  The dialogue is quite stock; no care is given to originality.  Each character is very procedural and stereotypical, including the cheesy villain.  Abiding Joy begins a new theme of the remainder of the Love Comes Softly series: forced extra romance subplots.  At this point, the original novel plots have been completely abandoned.  On a brighter note, this grief story had some great potential, but it was left untapped.  There is a slightly interesting twist at the end of the story, but it’s pretty much washed over by all the other negative elements.  Unfortunately, that’s the only good that can be said.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

Abiding Joy marks the beginning of vain actors and actresses in this film franchise.  Dale Midkiff once again takes on a large role in this movie, and it’s not a good thing.  Other cast members portray annoying forced emotions and awkward line delivery.  Erin Cottrell has a lot of half-screamed lines.  The only good element to bring light to here is the presence of at least some good acting, though it’s just not enough.

Conclusion

Love’s Abiding Joy had just as much of an original idea behind the plot as Love’s Long Journey did, but the originality is left on the proverbial playing field.  We need more movies about the real struggles of families portrayed in realistic settings, but this film just doesn’t cut it.  There was a significant decrease in overall quality in this fourth Love Comes Softly installment, and unfortunately, it was the unhindered beginning of a major slide for the film saga.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

Love’s Long Journey (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

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.

Conclusion

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.

 

Final Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points

 

Love’s Enduring Promise (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Years after Clark and Marty Davis settled into their new life together, their family is prosperous and successful.  Missy Davis is a young woman now with a job and a mind of her own.  All seems well until tragedy strikes—Clark receives a serious injury in a wood-cutting accident, which sends the entire family into a search for answers and hope.  While taking care of Clark and praying for healing, Marty and Missy must work the fields in order to have the crops done in time for harvest.  At the end of their rope, they suddenly receive help from an unexpected source.  Little do they know that God has been watching over them all along and will allow them to be a part of His special plan.

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

Michael Landon Jr. and Hallmark, in this installment, continued to showcase production superiority over other Christian films of the era.  Love’s Enduring Promise has realistic sets and locations and great camera work.  The video and sound quality are solid, including well-filmed outside scenes.  The costuming is pretty good, with some minor issues regarding period authenticity.  The only other caveats to raise are some poorly created special effects and inconsistent editing.  At the beginning, the movie makes sense, but it becomes very rushed and choppy at the end, as will be explained next.  Nonetheless, the Love Comes Softly series, at this point, was still produced well.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

As previously mentioned, the first half of the movie is interesting and it feels like the audience will really be able to get to know Janette Oke’s characters.  However, once the major conflict is easily resolved, the plot meanders from there and comes to a predictable and forced conclusion.  Besides this, this film is an inaccurate adaptation of original novel that does not improve upon the original plot.  There are too many plot holes and unnecessary characters that only provide filler time.  The inevitable romance seems forced; it’s hard to really appreciate what’s going on because the characters are too shallow. While the dialogue is okay, the characters need to be deeper.  There is some real humor, but the Christian message is forced and not meaningful.  In short, this plot had a lot of potential to be different and interesting and to package a profound Christian message into a movie with authentic, accessible characters, but it only comes off as half-measures.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

The cast size increased for the second installment, but the quality decreased.  There are only a handful of good actors and actresses; the child actors are not coached well.  Line delivery is overly dramatic, like every line is supposed to be a deep spiritual truth.  But at the same time, emotions seem shallow.  Unfortunately, low quality acting derails an otherwise above average film.

Conclusion

Janette Oke’s beloved series has a mountain of good content where deep characters and realistic frontier struggles are concerned.  However, Michael Landon Jr. and team did not capture what they needed to capture.  Love Comes Softy could have been an epic saga, but we are only left to wonder what could have been.  Most audiences will be fine with Love’s Enduring Promise, mostly because of the era it was released in, but it needed something more.  In the future, we hope that this movie genre is redeemed from ‘just okay’ status.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

The Ultimate Life (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Jason Stevens has inherited his grandfather’s massive fortune, but he has lost his way in life.  He is successful at putting the money to good use helping others, but he seems to never have any time for his longtime girlfriend Alexia, who he does not realize has plans of her own.  On top of this, Jason’s family is suing him for the family fortune.  When he wakes up one day and suddenly finds Alexia has left the country, he doesn’t know what to do.  Therefore, he goes to his old friend Hamilton, who produces the diary of Jason’s grandfather so Jason can learn from his grandfather’s mistakes before he repeats them.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

The video quality is clear, but unfortunately, that’s all that can be said for the production of The Ultimate Life.  The sound quality varies depending on the type of scene.  The camera work is also very random—sometimes good and sometimes shaky.  The sets and locations are pretty good and fairly historically accurate, but some of them are unprofessionally presented.  Perhaps the worst part is the editing.  It is already difficult enough to transpose a past plotline onto a present day plotline, but The Ultimate Life comes off as very choppy and hard to follow.  The scenes are all over the place, sometimes depicting a vague World War II battle and sometimes depicting an awkward 1940s high school (the actors seem too old for high school though) dance.  The bottom line is that where the resources were available to make this a successful movie, they were not utilized.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

This plot is meant to be another book adaptation, but it is nothing like the book that bears the same name.  However, there wasn’t really much to work with in the book anyway.  In this film, the life of Red Stevens is displayed at breakneck speed, thus not allowing any time for character development.  While this could have been a very interesting tale of success, decline, and corruption, the story sputters along like an old car.  It seems like multiple different movie ideas were spliced together into one, since the story hops along through time, only hitting the highlights and those moments that can be easily connected to the first installment in the series.  The dialogue is mindless, and thus, the characters are empty.  The only good thing to highlight here is that this plot had potential—the story of Red Stevens is not necessarily a happy one, but it could have been used as an example of how to handle success and how to put family first.  But beyond this, there is nothing to say except that it seems like, rather than actually craft a meaningful plot to showcase an interesting topic, the crew thought up a whole bunch of tongue in cheek references to the more successful Ultimate Gift and transposed it on a post-Depression era backdrop.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

The actors and actresses are given no help.  Therefore, the line delivery is very forced and no emotional expression is authentic.  It seems like this cast could have been better than they are in this film, but nothing materializes.  As a side note, it is difficult to cast multiple actors for one character across a timespan, but The Ultimate Life handles this pretty well.  But unfortunately, that is the only good thing to mention.

Conclusion

The Ultimate Gift was a great film, and it is understandable why a prequel was requested.  There was a lot of good content that could have been covered.  Red Stevens’ character arc could have been showcased.  The Ultimate Life could have been a great film, but ‘could have’ is not a winning phrase.  After the success of Gift, Life had no excuses to be so poor, but it did.  This is unfortunate, and The Ultimate Life joins a long line of Christian films that could have been.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points