Entertainment Monday: Where Hope Grows (SPOILERS INCLUDED)
Calvin's problems seem to stem mostly from his inability to come to grips with the premature end of his professional baseball career. The movie, which I did like from an entertainment perspective did have some things in it that bothered me quite a bit... one of the lesser offenses being that we never really find out how or why Calvin's baseball career ended, other than the brief mention of him not swinging the bat in a crucial game situation. That's hardly a cause for the departure of someone from a professional baseball team though, so the real reason for his failures at baseball are never fully explored in the movie.
Calvin's drinking and lack of a job causes a great deal of friction between him and his daughter Katie as well as his daughter's relationship with the school jock/athlete/hero who is a jerk and only desires getting in Katie's pants. Most of the plot line of the movie moves along slowly even though the end of the movie has a lot of action all at once. The big take away from the movie is the importance of friendship, family and religion in helping people to cope with and get over the things that hold them back in life.
Calvin learns how to be a good friend, how to be a good father and how to come to God through his friendship with Produce. There are a lot of good lessons in the film, and Calvin, his daughter Katie, and Produce are all very easy to root for. I liked the realism of the movie too in confronting Calvin's problems with drinking. What I did not like was Calvin's relationship with his friends who did not seem like "real" friends to me (other than the autistic boy Produce). Some horrible things happen in the movie, some of them involving drinking and driving, and Calvin seems to kind of shrug those factors off. I suppose the fact that Calvin often drinks and drives in the movie may be part of the reason that he is not very critical of his friend who later gets into an accident with another friend of Calvin's when drinking and driving that ultimately results in the death of one of the two friends.
Calvin also talks and texts on his cell phone while driving in the movie on a number of occasions. He even speaks on his cell phone while driving following the drinking and driving incident in which one of his friends gets killed. This movie was made in 2014. While I do not know the driving laws in the state of Michigan, In New York State driving while texting or talking on your cell phone is against the law and has been for likely close to a decade if not over a decade. I would not be surprised if Texas had no such law but I would expect the upper mid western United States would also have a no texting or talking on a cell phone while driving law. For all the movie's positive messages, they seem to have left a gaping hole with their oversight here.
While the movie sends a good message about the dangers of drinking and driving because of the accident I kind of felt like Calvin's dismissive nature in wake of the movie's climatic accident took away from that message on some level too. The end of the movie is mixed with both happiness and sadness but done so in an awkward and clumsy way that seems almost disrespectful to the fact that one of the movie's characters loses their life.
Calvin ends up getting a job as the manager of a minor league baseball team and is able to turn his life around in the relationship with his daughter, but the movie ends with him throwing out the first pitch at a baseball game commemorating the loss of the person who dies in the film. After that commemorative first pitch there is a lot of dancing and celebrating on the mound. That's what made for the very awkward and poorly considered ending in my opinion.
Outside of the somewhat dysfunctional ending there are a number of heart warming moments that arise out of Calvin's finally dealing with his demons and putting his life back together. The character of Produce is the most well written and well thought out part of the movie. He is a true friend and hero to both Calvin and Calvin's daughter Katie. The lesson the movie gives about the capabilities, heart and ability to unite through love by a boy with downs syndrome are it's strongest points. Where Hope Grows ultimately has good intentions and is an enjoyable film, but for a film that tries to send such a positive message about "Hope" it fails miserably because of certain directorial oversights that could have created a more appropriate sense for the lessons learned through tragedy and triumph.
I would say that it is generally a good family movie to watch with kids, but the lessons taught by the movie need to be supplemented by a parent's guidance because of the missed opportunities in teaching some other important lessons with regards to certain behaviors displayed by Calvin and some of his friends in the film.
As a movie Where Hope Grows had B+ or A potential but because of the directorial oversights in a movie who's target audience are families, the failure to teach some important life lessons via the story line and the the awkward ending makes me give the film a C-. >.<