PG (for for thematic elements and brief teen drinking)
October 4, 2013
AJ Michalka, James Denton, Kevin Pollak, Michael Welch, Shawnee Smith, Shawnee Smith, Chris Tomlin, Pia Toscano
More on this movie at IMDb.com
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CHRISTIAN MOVIE REVIEW
By Chris Carpenter
CBN.com Director of Internet Programming
- Every once in a while a movie comes along that captures the hearts of viewers without being overly flashy, raunchy, or raw. Honest and unpretentious, Grace Unplugged, a new faith-based film releasing in theaters today is just that.
Directed by Brad Silverman (No Greater Love) and starring AJ Michalka (Super 8) and James Denton (Desperate Housewives), Grace Unplugged is just the type of movie that will comfort the fears of parents and capture the hearts of teenagers. This is all due to an honest script that drives the film through the use of sharp dialogue and effective pacing.
THE MOVIE IN A MINUTE
Grace Trey (Michalka) has just turned 18 and aspires to become a famous rock star just like her father did two decades earlier. There is but one problem. Her father (Denton) gave up that lifestyle years and years ago after he found salvation in Jesus Christ. He has found peace and contentment in leading his church’s praise and worship band, a group in which Grace also performs. Despite her faith, Grace longs to step out of her father’s shadow and make a name for herself. Unfortunately, her vision for this means chasing fame and fortune on the secular pop music charts, something other than what God has planned for her. With the help of her father’s old manager (Kevin Pollak), Grace runs off to Los Angeles and soon finds herself strapped to the rocket of what the world sees as success. Her father warns that fame is not as glamorous as it looks and that serving the Lord is a far more worthwhile goal. Grace thinks otherwise.
THE GOOD AND BAD IN GRACE UNPLUGGED
Michalka shines in her role as Grace. As one half of the musical sister duo Aly & AJ in real life, Michalka has spent nearly a decade in the entertainment business. She can obviously identify with this role and plays the part admirably. Michalka absolutely soars in any scene where she gets to demonstrate her musical talent – especially in the movie’s climactic scene when she performs “All I’ve Ever Needed”, a single that can currently be heard on Christian radio.
Denton, who most recently made his mark as the handsome neighbor on Desperate Housewives, delivers a believable performance as Grace’s father, the former rock star Johnny Trey. At times, his acting seems a bit contrived in scenes where he is domineering but is most effective in the tender moments between father and daughter.
Other cast members making a solid contribution include Pollak (A Few Good Men, That Thing You Do) as a snarky, smarmy music producer, Michael Welch (Twilight series) as a record company intern who befriends Grace, and Christian recording artist Jamie Grace in her cinematic debut as Grace’s best friend.
A major strong suit in Grace Unplugged is its music. Filled with several nifty performances by Michalka, each featured song plays out as critical subtext, thus creating a vehicle for Grace’s inner monologue and emotions. The decision to do this adds great depth and texture to the title character and the movie as a whole. A move well played by Silverman.
The soul of this movie is the relationship between father and daughter. Virtually every parent has had to deal with a child, who, despite their best intentions to honor God, sometimes falls short due to their dreams and desires. It is part of the growing up process but is not an easy transition for any parent or child. Grace Unplugged does an excellent job of portraying this prodigal spirit but more importantly gently serves as a great discussion starter for families on matters of glorifying God in the face of chasing dreams.
IN THE END
Grace Unplugged is an honest yet realistic portrayal of what many parents face when trying to cultivate a child’s talent and desire for God. It is inspiring, thought provoking, and avoids being self-righteous or preachy. It is a must see for any Christian parent.
Grace Unplugged opens today in theaters nationwide.
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