Written and directed by Michael Landon Jr. about his relationship with his famous father, this 97-minute DVD will be released by Edify Media on March 11th. The cast includes John Schneider as Michael Landon and Cheryl Ladd as his second wife, Lynn. Joel Berti plays Michael Jr. as an adult.
PREVIEW REVIEW: I saw this movie at the end of 2013, when we critics were besieged by films all seeking Academy Award attention. Whatever else could be said of those entries, each contained extraordinary performances. The quality of acting in these major motion pictures as compared to the equivalent of straight-to-DVD efforts is filet mignon to Hamburger Helper. Sadly, I was left wanting a bit more from this cast.
John Schneider is a Christian and an in-demand actor for the faith and family film makers. But he took on a heavy assignment by portraying a complex man so injured by parental foibles in his childhood that it afflicted his inner being throughout life. Mr. Schneider is a good actor, but the depth needed to truly reveal Landon’s inner demons and struggles could have been more powerfully realized by someone like Joaquin Phoenix. Inner struggle is written all over that actor’s face.
In general, the acting is serviceable, but not memorable. Had Cheryl Ladd been given a bit more to do, she might have stood out. She has the acting chops and is lovely, but it’s not her movie, so, like the rest of the cast, her portrayal doesn’t linger in our minds.
That said, it is still a film worth seeing.
The main theme has to do with the effect of divorce on children. This subject is delicately handled and should send signals to those considering separating from their family. There’s also a healing element that’s touched on. While the writer/director doesn’t preach us a sermon, he does make it clear that we are more than mental/physical beings. There is a spiritual side to our makeup and, when given attention, our development of that area of our nature will get us through the hard times and help mold our future relationships. Indeed, this is a solid example of a message being successfully rendered within a movie. It’s a cautionary tale that should be seen by anyone who has or is planning on having kids.
Not yet rated, I found nothing objectionable. While the filmmaker shows young Michael Jr. attempting to find escape briefly through drug use and rebellion, these scenes are handled with discretion. The scene of his acceptance of Christ contains some moving imagery.
Trivia 1: Michael Landon Jr. is a proficient and prolific TV-movie maker, successful in delivering homespun optimism within his films. In 2013, his film The Ultimate Life made my list of best films. The Ultimate Life is a solid parable, handled by a filmmaker with a definitive style. And what a pleasure to view a theatrical release that focuses on story and character while avoiding the crude and the profane.
Trivia 2: In the early years of forming my monthly movie guide, The Movie Reporter, I supplemented my income by doing extra work in film and on TV. At least twice I worked on Highway to Heaven. It was an easy set, Mr. Landon assessable to others and well-liked by his crew. He would have them out at an early hour so they could get home to their real families, and I understand he was generous at bonus time. Oh, and the craft services (the caterers) were great. It was a pleasure working his show, even as an extra.