A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Where Hope Grows is a moving faith-based drama that's also likely to appeal to anyone who's interested in a touching story of redemption and friendship. The movie focuses on an alcoholic former Major League Baseball player who strikes up a friendship with a grocery store produce stocker with Down syndrome. The movie deals with some heavy themes -- including substance abuse, unhealthy relationships, adultery, the pressure to have sex, and a scary accident that kills one character. It also makes the delcaration that the "R" word ("retarded") should be seen as unusable as the "N" word. But this powerful film also explores the transformative power of friendship and faith and embraces the idea of redemption.
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What's the story?
WHERE HOPE GROWS is a faith-based fim about the kind of friendship that comes out of nowhere but changes your life forever. Calvin Campbell (Kristoffer Polaha) was once a Major League Baseball player, but he's now a single alcoholic raising a perpetually disappointed 17-year-old daughter, Katie (McKaley Miller). One day at the local ValuMart, Calvin ends up in a conversation with "Produce" (David DeSanctis), a grocery store clerk with Down syndrome. After Calvin has increasingly chatty interactions with Produce, the two become friends outside of the grocery store, too. As Calvin grows closer to his generous-hearted new friend, he begins to make positive changes (joining AA, going to church) to turn himself from a bitter baseball washout into a productive and protective friend and father.
Is it any good?
In the genre of faith-based cinema, this is one of the rare movies that doesn't feel like an evangelical tract. It's a well-acted and engaging story of how the unlikeliest of people can influence you in the best of ways. Yes, there are Christian messages strewn throughout the movie, but it's subtler than many in the genre. Polaha is expertly cast as a washed-up former ballplayer who doesn't know what to do with his life, and his chemistry with DeSanctis is so sweet that their scenes together are the best the movie has to offer.
Despite a few structural missteps -- like tacking on a subplot about Calvin's best friend, Milt (William Zabka), worrying that his wife (Danica McKellar) is having an affair, or making Katie's "bad boy" boyfriend Colt (Michael Grant) so unlikable that it's difficult to understand why she'd even bother with such a stalkerish creep -- Where Hope Grows is a movie that will grow on audiences. Produce and Calvin's friendship is so gentle and endearing that even the sentimental moments don't feel overly precious in this well-done exploration of redemption through kindness.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about who you think Where Hope Grows is intended to appeal to. Do you think only families/viewers who embrace the movie's faith-based messages will appreciate it? Why or why not?
What is the movie saying about friendship, fatherhood, and change? How are the characters impacted by their relationships?
How does the movie depict the teen romantic relationship? Is it realistic? How much sexual content in media is appropriate for kids? Parents, talk with your teens about what to do if their boyfriend or girlfriend is pressuring them into sex and/or belittling them about their inexperience.
- In theaters: May 15, 2015
- On DVD or streaming: August 25, 2015
- Cast: Kristoffer Polaha, William Zabka, Danica McKellar
- Director: Chris Dowling
- Studio: Roadside Attractions
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Friendship
- Run time: 95 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: thematic issues involving drinking and teen sexuality, and for brief language and an accident scene
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