By KIRBY MCCORD
One genre of film is broadly called Drama and encompasses an expansivearray of plotlines, settings, and themes. One sub-genre within Drama is a fairly recent phenomena: the inspirational film. Back in the early days of Hollywood, many if not most films were intended as inspirational at least to some degree. But as the film industry matured, such naïveté was discarded for gritty realism, and inspirationalstories were relegated to children’s films. Later these became primarily made-for-TV movies. These were movies that espoused the value of family and intergenerational connection, and were usually seen as sappy morality tales (although some were actually quite good). In recent years, several independent film studios have resurrected the inspirational sub-genre with some widely publicized releases: “Soul Surfer,” “One Night With the King,” “Dolphin Tale”and “Fireproof” come to mind. While not as slickly professional as typical Hollywood fare, these films have remarkable appeal and show a ham-handed sincerity that is admirable. The latest addition to this sub-genre is “Last Ounce of Courage.”
“Last Ounce of Courage” does not so much tell a story as evoke emotions. A young man goes off to war and is killed,leaving behind his parents, his wife and the baby boy he has never seen. Fourteen years later, his widow and son come to live with his parents, dredging up grief and nostalgia. The parents, Bob and Dottie Revere live in a small community called Mount Columbus and are challenged by the newly arrived grandson Christian to show that their son did not die in vain. Inspired by Christian’s devotion to his father, Bob, who is also the town’s part-time mayor, strives to revive the town’s Christmas spirit. Battling bullying bureaucrats, Bob tries to show that freedom of religion is not the same thing as freedom from religion.
The script, co-written by director Darrel Campbell and director/producer Kevin McAfee, which alternates between hyper emotional showmanship and day-to-day tediumis at times sophomoric. But it shows a sincerity that is at times gripping, and voices a sentiment that is uniquely American. Symbolism is rampant in the names: Bob will bring the news that our American freedoms are under attack, so he is naturally named Revere. The grandson, who seems to be pure of heartis named Christian. The mercenary opposing Bob is named Hammerschmidtevoking the Hessians of Revolutionary times. Even the name of the town, Mount Columbus is meant to arouse a sense of patriotism.
This is not an overtly Christian film yet it clearly identifies Christianity as a factor in the creation of the freedoms we hold dear. Not one scene is filmed in a church. The most visibly religious scene is a funeral, and it is interesting to contrast this with the funeral scene in “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” which was intentionally nonreligious.
The cast tends to overact, but is still generally believable. Marshall Teague (“The Rock”) plays Bobwith tight-lipped determination. Jennifer O’Neill (“Summer of ‘42”) portrays loyal and stout-hearted Dottie. Fred “The Hammer” Williamson (“From Dusk Till Dawn”) is power-mad Warren “The Hammer” Hammerschmidt. Hunter Gomez “Middle Men”) plays young blank-faced Christian Revere. Native Texan Jenna Boyd (“The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants”) is mischievous neighbor Mattie, who probably shows more courage than anyone else.
“Last Ounce of Courage” is not a terrific movie. It will win no awards. But it tells a story worth telling, one that we all can identify with. It is in that spirit that I recommend seeing “Last Ounce of Courage.”