A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Christian-themed Savannah Sunrise focuses on the cycle of life, the importance of family, and what to do with an aging mother. A long road trip plays a big role in transporting the sympathetic mother to her retirement community and also in teaching her career-focused daughter-in-law to value family over work. Speeding tickets, flying guacamole, and a wayward baby alligator add hours to the trip but help them bond. A taxi stops short to avoid hitting a man dressed in a bear costume who is lying in the road.
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What's the story?
In SAVANNAH SUNRISE workaholic efficiency expert Joy (Shawnee Smith) already has a full plate as she plans a detailed pick-up and delivery schedule of her widowed mother-in-law from her home of 30 years to a retirement apartment six hundred miles away. The tension mounts when at the last minute a difficult potential client rudely adds specifications to his requested bids and moves their meeting up by two days, leaving Joy little time to prepare her presentation. This stress renders her completely oblivious to the pain her husband's mom, Loraine (the touching Pamela Reed), is suffering as she leaves her old life for an unknowable future. Nothing goes as planned and a long road trip results, throwing Joy and Loraine together. Anger and blame arise, leading Joy to blow up and then reevaluate her absentee parenting.
Is it any good?
This awful family movie is unlikely to appeal to kids. Is Savannah Sunrise a comedy with buffoon-like characters who don crazy costumes when food ruins their clothes or is it a story about family, caring for aging parents, and valuing family above all else with a few comic moments thrown in here and there? The filmmakers don't seem to know. Reed turns in a good performance but her efforts battle the inept direction and insurmountable script problems at every turn. In her 60s, Reed doesn't seem old enough to have a son the age of Phil (Shawn Christian of Days of Our Lives, who is 51), never mind having the serious memory problems that play a role in the plot. When a taxi nearly hits a man dressed as a bear lying in the road, credulity is sorely tested. No one in the cab seems capable of recognizing that the shape of the creature lying there is clearly human nor that the acrylic brown fur might be a costume. "What is it?!" they keep asking.
The movie works hard to establish that Joy is impatient and rude, putting her in situations that couldn't happen and making her say things no decent adult would ever utter without proving herself too stupid to be a successful efficiency expert. When an expired airline ticket is introduced, the audience is expected to believe that no other air tickets are available. What it really tells us is that the writer is grasping to justify an implausible road trip. And what is the purpose of the portrait of great-grandfather Harold in the backseat except to make poor Joy scream the way no human in real life would ever scream when encountering a bad painting? Some might laugh when a waiter spills guacamole all over the women's hair and clothes, but when the two emerge from the restaurant wearing Mexican costumes and a sombrero, one wonders what place slapstick has in this movie. And would any sane driver speed up and drive recklessly after discovering a baby alligator in the back seat, or would they just pull over and get out of the car? All this makes it easy to feel that the movie's 88 minutes of running time have taken precious years of your life.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about issues surrounding the care of aging parents and a growing older population that are brought up in Savannah Sunrise. Do you think these matters had better solutions generations ago when children didn't move far away from their parents, as has become common in more recent times?
Do you think adult children sometimes forget that moving their aging parents doesn't just change the parents' homes but also takes them far from established social life and other quality of life factors?
Joy seems to believe that she has nothing to learn from her mother-in-law at the start of the movie. Do you think that changes as the movie proceeds?
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