Miracle at Sage Creek

 
(i)

 

Spiritual Western is trite, but full of feel-good lessons.
  • Review Date: August 12, 2011
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Western
  • Release Year: 2005
  • Running Time: 83 minutes

What parents need to know

Educational value

Intended to entertain, not educate, but similarities and differences between Native American and pioneer cultures -- in terms of spirituality and day-to-day life -- are presented.

Positive messages

Strong positive messages about friendship, family, cultural acceptance, and the bond between grandfathers and their sons. The way prayer was used by pioneers and Native Americans is also compared and contrasted.

Positive role models

The two boys in the film stick with each other through thick and thin. The mothers face their hardships -- impending eviction, missing family members, a son who is gravely ill -- with courage and integrity. The Native American grandfather teaches a lesson of patience to his grandson. The pioneer family rescues an injured stray dog and nurses him back to health.

Violence & scariness

Since this is a Western, there are scenes of rifleplay, but compared to most Westerns, the violence is relatively tame, although one minor character is shot to death. Early in the film, the pioneer boy Zach gets his hand caught in an animal trap, and later, he is nearly attacked by a coyote.

Sexy stuff

A husband and wife are in bed together, fully-clothed, and they hug and briefly kiss.

Language

Occasional use of "damned," plus some racially oriented insults: "half-breed."

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

In a brief scene, two of the older characters soberly talk while drinking whiskey.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this spiritually-oriented drama set at Christmastime includes some standard Western-style violence. There are rifle battles on horseback, one of the boys gets his hand caught in an animal trap, and later, this same boy narrowly avoids being attacked by a snarling coyote. The movie's antagonist, bitter and mourning the murder of his wife by Native Americans, is prejudiced against Native Americans -- even calling the friend of his grandson a "half-breed" -- but through the miracle mentioned in the title, he learns to overcome his hatred and move on from her death. Overall, the film teaches positive lessons about respect for all cultures, the value of friendship, and the importance of family.

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What's the story?

This 2005 Christmas-themed Western follows the friendships and rivalries between two families, the Franklins and Red Eagles, in 1888 Wyoming. Scroogey Grandfather Ike Franklin (David Carradine), bitter at the death of his wife 10 years ago at the hands of Native Americans, plots a scheme to legally remove Chief Thomas Red Eagle (Wes Studi) from the home he shares with his daughter Sunny (Irene Bedard), son-in-law John Stockton (Tim Abell), and grandson Samuel. As this is happening, John goes missing, and Ike’s grandson Kit becomes ill with fever. To avert tragedy, Ike must learn to overcome his prejudice towards Native Americans, as the two families hope that the prayer that sustains them will provide the Christmas miracles they need.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

If the title itself isn't a dead giveaway, anyone with even a passing familiarity with both Westerns and Christmas movies should be able to predict how the last 30 minutes of MIRACLE AT SAGE CREEK will go down. It certainly isn't a masterpiece of either genre, but in spite of the trite story line, Miracle at least deserves praise for attempting to push beyond the stereotypes of Native Americans, pioneers, and how the two relate to each other as so often portrayed in traditional Westerns. Native American traditions are given a great deal of respect, themes of family and friendship abound, and the curmudgeonly bitterness and intolerance of Ike Franklin is overcome in both the storyline and the positive examples set by the other characters -- the boys Zachary Keller and Samuel Red Eagle in particular.

And yet, the only death in the film, the shooting of an African-American stagecoach driver, is a murder no one seems terribly interested in avenging. Plot holes like these make it a bit more difficult to feel good about this "feel good" movie, but if you're willing to overlook its shortcomings, Miracle at Sage Creek is a simple tale of love, redemption, and yes, miracles, during Christmastime in the Wild West.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how life was different for kids and adults in frontier times compared to today. Did you learn anything new from this movie? Are movies always the best way to learn about history?

  • What were some of the things that the Native Americans did differently than the pioneers? How do they resolve their differences in the movie? Does this movie challenge or reinforce any stereotypes? What are some of the challenges involved in relating to people who are different than you?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:November 5, 2005
DVD release date:May 30, 2006
Cast:David Carradine, Irene Bedard, Wes Studi
Director:James Intveld
Studio:Screen Media Films
Genre:Western
Topics:History, Holidays
Run time:83 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:violence and some mild language

This review of Miracle at Sage Creek was written by

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