Believe [2016] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Matthew Peyton has tried to keep his father’s struggling factory afloat, but with the unions bearing down his neck and the economy tanking in the small town he lives in, it may be too late for him, even with Christmas just around the corner.  One night, when Matthew is attacked by angry workers, he is left for dead yet tended by a community of homeless people he never knew existed in the city.  They change his outlook on life and give him a new hope for the holidays that he thought he had lost.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

As a modern production, Believe is mostly high quality and professional.  Video quality is great, and camera work is good except for some unnecessarily odd camera zooms at dramatic moments.  Audio quality is good, however, as is the soundtrack.  Sets, locations, and props are realistic and appropriate for the film.  However, there are some confusing special effects throughout, and the editing is generally disorienting as time goes back and forth without warning.  Nevertheless, it is clear that this production team wanted to make a good film, so they mostly succeeded on this front.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

Believe is one of the most complex yet disorganized Christmas plots I have ever witnessed.  It begins with unusual apocalypse undertones that depict a small town falling apart almost like a disaster film.  There is a lot of information dump dialogue to ‘catch the audience up,’ yet a lot of it is politically charged and agenda-driven.  At first, the drama seems manufactured as characters are seemingly swept along in uncontrollable circumstances like stand-ins for plot devices.  The story is also heavily centered around a stereotypical Christmas pageant that can save everything.  The protagonist is hated by almost everybody, which is another premise that seems very forced.  However, the plot pulls itself out of the nosedive in the middle as some really interesting issues and ideas are brought to light in what could have been a very unique and creative Christmas film.  However, the sheer number of ideas packed into this film cripples its influence, especially since the storyline returns to predictability and extremely quick problem-fixing and conflict-resolving for the final sequences.  Regardless, there is a lot of potential here that could be reworked into a different film.  The complexity at least keeps the viewer interested.

Acting Quality (2 points)

For the most part, this cast is professional and well-coached.  There are some moments when they are too practiced and forced in their emotions and line delivery, but this is not enough to derail the positive efforts.  On the whole, like other parts of this film, this casting and acting is what is needs to be to keep things interesting.

Conclusion

Many audiences will likely enjoy Believe, and it’s not really that bad of a movie.  But it needs some serious reorganization, along with a final sequence rework.  Too much is trying to be accomplished in this film, but we can never fault wanting to handle a lot of content when most films—especially holiday ones—suffer for any shred of substantial content.  Still, it would be interesting to see a remake of this film because there is definitely tons of potential here.

 

Final Rating: 5 out of 10 points

 

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The Pledge {Doughboy} [2011] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When Tory’s parents decide that they are going to move from bustling New York City to podunk West Virginia, he is angry that they are taking him away from all he knows.  Once in West Virginia, he can’t find anything to do, so he accidentally gets into trouble by vandalizing a war memorial.  As punishment, the judge sentences him to community service at a veteran’s home, even though his parents are anti-war.  Tory hates the work at first but soon finds that he can find meaning and make a different no matter what.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Much like A Christmas Tree Miracle, The Pledge has a random commitment to quality production—sometimes it has it while other times it does not.  For example, the audio quality is sometimes good but sometimes quite poor.  The soundtrack is average but camera work and video quality are fine.  Sets and locations are also on par.  However, there is too much reused footage and the editing is generally all over the place.  In the end, it all comes out as average, but we have to wonder what this team is trying for.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Also like its Christmas counterpart, The Pledge wavers between being very meaningful and being very satirical.  One moment the dialogue is dripping with obvious tongue-in-cheek sarcasm while another moment we are being shown the realities of post-combat trauma.  We have no idea what the writers were going for here, but they had a lot of good ideas that were unfavorably mixed with unusual comedy.  There is plenty of plot content to work with here, as well as a lot of interesting characters, but we don’t get to know them very well as too much dialogue is pedestrian.  There are tons of opportunities for deeper development here that are not tapped into.  In the end, we feel that this film could have been far better than this and are disappointed that it didn’t go all the way.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

While too many cast members are quite dry and boring and others outright smart alec or borderline crazy, they do tend to get better throughout the film.  Emotions range from being flat to believable.  Line delivery is also inconsistent.  When all is said and done, the acting comes out as average.

Conclusion

The Route 40\Flyover Films team is extremely hard to figure.  In their two films, they demonstrated great plot potential but also showed a lot of disingenuous sarcasm.  What exactly are they going for?  We may never truly know.  All we know is that The Pledge had potential, but it was never brought out.  While there is some meaning to be gleaned here and some parts are enjoyable, we just don’t know what to make of it all.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points