Matchmaker Mary
by Phil Boatwright

New on DVD from Pure Flix, this family comedy/drama stars Katherine McNamara, Dee Wallace, and Jeff Fahey.

FILM SYNOPSIS: After getting an "A" on her sixth grade final exam, Mary (Katherine McNamara) is rewarded with a puppy. Experiencing the love of this little puppy, and seeing several of her adult friends single and unhappy, Mary believes that placing two people together with the assistance of some loveable puppies will result in happy relationships.  With the help of her Aunt Karen (Dee Wallace) and the shelter’s manager, Cameron Banks (Jeff Fahey), the three of them become self-described matchmaking angels, while along the way, Aunt Karen and Cameron not only become accomplices in Mary’s scheme, but also get "matched.” As her success ratio continues, Mary utilizes her new matchmaking angels to carry out the biggest and most important plan: to bring her own parents back together again.

PREVIEW REVIEW:
I think the world of Dee Wallace, I love dogs, and I appreciate that the filmmaker showed the lead family as churchgoers. Writer/director Tom Whitus made no big deal out of the family attending Sunday service; he just wanted to put churchgoing back into the consciousness of filmgoers. It was nicely done, sending a positive message without becoming preachy. What’s more, the DVD is certainly family friendly and will no doubt be appreciated by little girls, especially those seeking ways of bringing bickering parents to a peaceful resolve. There, that should make the distributors happy. Alas, they should read no further. You should.

The man, or little girl, and canine best friend genre is loaded with classics: Sounder, My Dog Skip, Marley and Me, Lassie Come Home, 101 Dalmatians, Lady and the Tramp, Benji and a jillion others. And when it comes to preteen matchmakers, it’s difficult to out-charm Hayley Mills, or even a preteen Lindsey Lohan in The Parent Trap. Matchmaker Mary fails to meet those standards. It has a llimited budget, a grating background score, a badly balanced soundtrack (where sound effects like stilettos on wood flooring are more prominent than the dialogue), and a lead character who can smile a lot but gives Hayley Mills little competition in the charisma department.

A subdued Jeff Fahey sports a pointy beard that makes him resemble Rasputin. And poor Dee Wallace tries to smile her way through the entire movie as if a grin is character development. This grinning seems to be habit forming among cast members (except the aforementioned subdued Jeff Fahey). If one must sum up Matchmaker Mary in one word, it would be sweet. Sweet indeed. It could decay teeth.

The positive comments of several other Christian reviewers are featured on the box cover, giving a distinctly different assessment of the production. But sometimes I get the feeling that if the family film is “clean” or made by a Christian or contains a positive theme, we Christian examiners of film tend to give the production a pass. The problem with that is that we are saluting mediocrity, as if we simply will always accept fast food burgers and never desire filet mignon.

It’s not a bad film, it’s just not a good one. So, support it for the same reasons my colleagues in criticism have done. But only if you’ve already seen My Dog Skip and Lady and The Tramp.

Not rated, I found nothing objectionable. 80 min. For more information about the film or to order it, go to www.pureflix.com.