Two young boys start a rivalry that is forged into a friendship by way of helping an ailing dog. As one boy’s caregiver passes away, the other boy’s family takes him on as one of their own. This family struggles through tough times on their farm as well as tensions from bigoted neighbours because the boy they took into their home happens to be black. Such is the “family bond” thesis of this highly sentimental Xmas film, co-authored by Country superstar Kenny Rogers, and starring country star turned famous dad, Billy Ray Cyrus.
Presented by the Hallmark Channel, it certainly spends much of its time trying to construct those type of “Hallmark Moments” that tug at your heart. The first act (the initial ‘unlikely friends’ tale) is a bit too cornball for my tastes but darned if it didn’t manage to bring in a more interesting story involving a black civil rights meeting, and a racist protest gone violent and nearly deadly. This lead to some interesting choices for the central characters at the climax, which play a slightly unexpected angle on what seemed to be a ‘family sticks together no matter’ what sort of story. I appreciate it managing to bring me back into the film as it was steering way too steadily into the territory of overly sentimental antics of an impossibly upbeat family…that and Billy Ray’s character doesn’t seem to visually age despite MANY years going by in the film.
There is little more to be said about the performances or the skill of the director as I could some it up as “okay” on most all fronts. Perhaps this is a curse of many TV movies but certainly nothing was notably bad enough to distract…again, aside from a few overly cheesy, ‘warm feeling’ Americana moments here and there
Widescreen 1.66:1. The picture wavers between being acceptably clear and being overly washed out looking, where colours start to fade on people. Dissapointingly inconsistant.
Dolby Digital 5.1. The sound mixing is dreadful in parts where dialogue has to compete with the score. There was no volume where I could hear every word and be comfortable with the music levels in all speakers. I should not have had to work so hard to grasp what was happening in this film but this was a severe imbalance. Yes, the music was super clear in all surrounding speakers, as were the sound effects and portions of the dialogue that competed with nothing else, but only if alone, or else it was at the cost of everything else.
What could have been a total write-off for me actually had the decency to pull in a story that was somewhat interesting. Those that let media get to their hearts strings easily will be quite moved by this film. Cynics need to steer clear.