Country music and Christianity may go together like apple pie and the American flag, but this musical waters down the country, the Christianity, and the film it seems to be knocking off. Director Craig McMahon's Sweet Sunshine is like A Star Is Born without the interesting parts (or a solid script). There's plenty that doesn't work here, including the title character, Sunshine (Savanah D. McMahon), a free spirit who left home in her custom Mustang ... but we don't know why. She becomes homeless, but the movie's opportunity to shine a spotlight on the spiral of poverty is dismissed to instead instantly solve her problem by giving her a home, a boyfriend, and a career as a country singer in one night. No kidding. It's implied that it's all God's work, but that's really creating a lot of false expectations for Him from young viewers.
As TJ, Way is amiable and charming, demonstrating some real talent -- this is a kid who's going places. Featuring songs written by Louis Yoelin and performed by Way and McMahon, the movie's music is also surprisingly and consistently good -- quite unexpected for a low-budget, regional production. Alas, the quality of the musical performances draws attention to the poor audio throughout the rest of the film: It sounds as hollow and echo-y as if a boom mic was set up 10 yards away. And even though music is one of the film's main focuses, the way it's presented in Sweet Sunshine goes against the grain of modern filmmaking. Back in the early days of cinema, the action would stop to see a star perform a song because movies were the only visual medium in which people could see a performance -- there was no TV or YouTube. Eventually, the accepted practice became that when an entire song was to be performed, the music must connect to the storyline. But what we have here are unknown actors performing an album's worth of singles; not the most compelling proposition. While the quality of the music may provide a ray of light, Sweet Sunshine is a bit like being stuck at home on a rainy day.