These days the movies we get from the moral-uplift brigade are usually right out of the South. But there’s a new, Chuck Norris-endorsed (honest) movie of this sort currently playing in theaters, and it seems to be a southern California product.
To compare specific films, let’s consider last year’s “Courageous” with the newly-released “Last Ounce of Courage.” “Courageous” is a movie made by Georgians. Alex Kendrick, its star and director, is an ordained minister. While it is in several ways attractive, it is not a movie on which great sums of money were spent—the settings, the size of the cast, and in general the “look” indicates its makers relied on imagination where Hollywood would have used cash.
“Last Ounce of Courage” is a little more sophisticated technically. Oh, there are still some lighting problems (during the scene on the “mission’s” roof, for example, shadows frequently cross the face of a character who is speaking). The costuming is pretty basic. But this movie is more conventionally plotted, looks better, and is better acted than have been the recent Georgia Christian movies, perhaps even including Tyler Perry’s.
It should be better acted, given its cast. Remember 1971’s “The Summer of ‘42,” about the young wife who looks for comfort on the night she hears her soldier husband has been killed in the war? Well, that Jennifer O’Neil is one of the leads in “Last Ounce.”
Another is Fred “The Hammer” Williamson, who played for the Chiefs and the Raiders before going on to Hollywood. Incidentally, he plays a character named “Hammerschmidt.” And the hero of the movie, Bob Revere, riding and taking the alarm to every middlesex, village, and farm, is played by Marshall Teague, a hard-working journeyman who has been around long enough to have appeared in the “BJ and the Bear” t.v. series.
Bob is a Congressional Medal of Honor winner whose son has died in some military conflict. The living Revere is a motorcycle enthusiast rather than a horseman. He is also mayor of a small town in middle America. A visit from his grandson prompts Bob to lead a citywide fight to celebrate Christmas publicly despite the threats of the politically correct.
But here’s one of the film’s problems. It can’t find ways the litigation-threatening atheists actually limit even religious portions of holiday celebrations. Oh, The Hammer pulls down the big Christmas tree on the square and crushes an angel ornament with his boot, as if it were a wide receiver. And school teachers try to keep from mentioning Christmas during the December play.
The movie wants more drama, though. So its screenplay has Bob arrested (by his son’s best friend) for installing a cross on the building housing “The Mission at the Cross.” While he’s on the roof doing the attaching, a crowd gathers and Bob speaks, trying again to associate his son’s sacrifice (in protecting our freedoms) with his own doing things like securing a “Merry Christmas” sign on the town’s watertower.
It is true that some curiously motivated citizens, often threatening litigation, often assert that no American government can associate itself in any way with religion. Remember when it was suggested that Manhattan would be sued if the monumental Ten Commandments were not moved from City property? Funny thing is, Junction kept theirs. I see it every time I go over to the Opera House.
Wooden dialog, sappy music, and some odd hairstyles (the grandson has a frosted Beiber-do) also mar “Last Ounce of Courage.” But for audiences anxious to feel sentimentally self-righteous, this California-style moral-uplift movie looks more like a professional product than have other, recent, comparable movies.