Welcome to Paradise [2007] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Debbie Laramie makes a mistake that causes her to lose her current pastor job, she is demoted by her superior to become the pastor of a struggling small town church in Paradise, Texas.  She tends to be a rogue when delivering her sermons, so she brings her unique style to the stuck-in-their-ways small town in an attempt to shake things up.  Though plenty of gossip goes around about her, she forges ahead and tries to make a difference.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Unlike other Echolight-affiliated productions, Welcome to Paradise does not have the usual professional quality.  Camera work is unprofessional and there is some inconsistent lighting, although video quality is fine.  Audio quality needs some work, as does the random soundtrack.  However, sets, locations, and props are adequate and appropriate.  The editing could also use some improvement, but it is not that bad.  Overall, this is a confusing production because it’s hard to understand what they were trying to do.  They don’t appear to be that limited on budget, so it’s hard to know why quality is inconsistent.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

This story was taken from the pages of a proverbial stock plot playbook.  It is the extremely stereotypical tale of a character who is forced to live in a small town and save the church therein.  Thus, every character stereotype imaginable is included, driven by pointless dialogue and very cheesy and forced comedy.  As the story meanders along in a useless fashion, it is driven by laughable coincidences and things that happen because they need to.  There is little to no justification for making this formulaic film because it has been done a million times before and after.  If you’re going to use a typical storyline, at least develop the characters properly.  However, this was not done in this film.

Acting Quality (1 point)

Though this is a semi-professional cast, they are trying way too hard to be funny.  Though they have their good moments, they are trying too much to exhibit quirky stereotypes.  It’s hard to feel like emotions are taken seriously in this cast.  Overall, this film is a big disappointment.

Conclusion

Welcome to Paradise feels like a dumb TV show or a reject Hallmark movie.  It could have very well been marketed by Hallmark, as long as it was fit into one of their seasonal molds.  Nonetheless, it’s difficult to justify the creation of these types of films.  Is this really what the Christian market needs?  We beg to differ.  Christian film makers can do better than this by a long shot.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

 

Love’s Unfolding Dream (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Raised by her new family, Belinda Tyler is now ready to set out and make a life for herself, even though the culture she lives in frowns upon women pursuing professional careers.  She is finally and begrudgingly allowed by the local doctor to assist him in a small role, and she gets a ‘big break’ one day when a wealthy yet elderly woman has a stroke in the middle of town and is confined to bed.  Belinda becomes her nurse and physical therapist, but that’s not the only task on her mind—a young lawyer has come to town to ready some inherited property for sale, and the two of them clash over their views of women’s roles in society.  Little do either of them know that their carefully chosen paths are about to be altered forever.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Another unnecessary installment in the Love Comes Softly series, another quasi-inspirational director.  The story of Unfolding Dream’s production is much like the latter installment.  The video quality and camera work are solid.  The sound quality, however, is sometimes inconsistent.  The historical surroundings are fairly well done, but they are obviously limited in scope, as the same sets are used excessively.  As will be discussed in depth later in this review, the costuming and makeup are particular horrible in this film.  Finally, the editing is uneven, pasting stock scenes together in an attempt to create a movie.  In short, there is really nothing new here—at this point, the saga settled into average production quality and awful plots and acting.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Though Michael Landon Jr. returned to the writing department, things did not improve.  It cannot be understated that the original intent of Janette Oke’s work has been completely abandoned and replaced with a shallow inspirational ‘plot’.  ‘Plot’ is relative because a collection of random empty sequences depicting silly stereotypical frontier characters is not a true storyline.  Characters go here and there, from one place to the next, with no real plot flow.  Dialogue is very hollow, thus forming plastic characters.  The “excuse for Drew to go to the doctor” device is highly overused.  While discussing the roles of frontier women is an interesting topic, it cannot be properly appreciated in the context of this film.  The only other thing that keeps this plot from being zero is the intriguing underdeveloped subplot between Belinda and Mrs. Stafford-Smythe.  Yet there are also other useless subplots shoved into the storyline, likely to increase the movie’s runtime.  Therefore, less than a full point must be awarded here.

Acting Quality (0 points)

It doesn’t really get any worse than this.  From exotic frontier hairdos to extravagant makeup to fake country accents, the overall acting quality barely escaped negative points.  The continued commitment of Dale Midkiff and Erin Cottrell to this franchise derails it.  There is no acting coaching employed; too many supporting characters come off as robotic.  Due to the poor acting, the audience cannot relate to these characters.

Conclusion

As the saga slugs on, it becomes increasingly apparent that the writing team didn’t have that many ideas.  Rushing up and forcing new romances and courtships into every new movie demonstrates lack of creativity and borderline obsession.  The question must be asked again: was the original Janette Oke plot really so bad that this was used instead?  We think not, and would advise future novel adaptations to do their best to stay faithful to the original story, unless they can find a way to improve it.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points

Alone Yet Not Alone (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Recent immigrants from Germany to colonial America in order to find religious freedom, Barbara Leninger, her parents, and her siblings did not expect to come face to face with the violence between the Native Americans and the settlers.  In a shocking raid, Barbara and her sister Regina are separated from their mother after witnessing the deaths of their brother and father.  Barbara and Regina are forced to become Native American girls in every way, including attire and behavior.  They band together with other captive children, keeping each other morally afloat by singing the Leninger family hymn, Alone Yet Not Alone.  But when Barbara and Regina are separated, their true faith in God is tested to the limits as they risk their lives by attempting to escape in order to find each other again.

Production Quality (2 points)

For a first time filmmaker, Alone Yet Not Alone has above average production quality.  The camera work is good, as multiple complex action scenes are filmed relatively well.  The editing is okay, considering the large amount of content and the passage of time in this movie.  One drawback is that some of the makeup work and costuming show indie qualities, but this does not cause irreparable harm.  In short, this is a good start for production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

This movie is based off of true events, so realism in the plot cannot be argued with.  There are realistic twists, turns, and disappointments throughout.  As previously mentioned, a lot of time is covered, and this is pulled off fairly well.  However, the characters are not developed as well as they should be as the dialogue is just average. Additionally, some cast members do not appear to be culturally authentic. Regardless, inaugural film projects should tend to be based on real events, and this criteria is met.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

For a cast of allegedly inexperienced actors, there are not too many glaring errors.  Some movie-makers commit grave errors with casts of allegedly professional actors.  Sometimes it is difficult to cast multiple actors for the same character in a plot that requires age differences, but Alone Yet Not Alone does not make this a problem.  Some negative elements should be examined however, such as the poor acting of some of the supporting actors and the fact that not all of the Native American characters were played by true Native Americans.  Box Office Revolution realizes that it is difficult to acquire so many Native Americans for a movie, so this may be a moot point.  In summary, more is made out of this little-know cast than is made out of casts that are supposedly star-studded.

Conclusion

Alone Yet Not Alone is a good start for the team behind it; it is definitely something to build off of.  It contains a believable plot that can relate to most audiences, highlighting a little known historical period well.  In short, if more Christian movies were of this caliber instead of so many unwatchable movies in the Christian genre, the movement as a whole would have a greater reputation than it currently does.

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points