Mighty Oak (2020) | VOD
Part independent film, part Hallmark movie, this latest reteam from the writer and director of Soul Surfer fails to play the right notes.
I have yet to see Soul Surfer, and after finishing Mighty Oak the chances of that ever happening are certainly dwindling. The direction has an odd tendency to mix two unappealing characteristics together: aimlessness and being manipulative. It's one thing to lightly put some manipulative aspects into your film, but Mighty Oak forcefully shoves these moments into your face making the film at times even more eye rolling than it already is. From this experience alone it seems director Sean McNamara had a lucky break with Soul Surfer, but his luck stops here. His efforts appear to be of better use on a straight to TV film, soap opera, or better yet a "seasonal movie of the month.”
Screenwriter Matt Allen has never had the best scripts with Four Christmases (2008) and Nine Lives (2016), and that remains the case here. Mighty Oak revolves around an up and coming band, Army of Love,, as they tragically lose their frontman in an accident, leading the band ten years later to reunite with the suspected reincarnation of said frontman. From beginning to end the film's obvious tropes are easily predictable, and when they do surprise it's worth absolutely nothing. An "unexpected" twist feels manipulative and adds nothing to the story beyond a moment of "shock" that slowly disappears.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Tommy Ragen plays our titular character Oak to mixed results. Ragen is clearly trying his best, which is something that can't be said for the entire cast, but the script ultimately hinders his performance and his infinite amount of "emotional" scenes begin to test the audience after some repetition. Alexa Penavega plays Oak's mother - drug addicted and over protective of her son. Penavega is well known for her work as a child in the Spy Kids franchise, but all grown up her acting chops don't cut it. Her protective ways and arrogant drug habits are rightfully irritating, but the way the film executes these interactions makes everything so much more dreadful to watch play out. Apart from our title character, our actual lead (and producer of the film) Janel Parrish gives absolutely nothing to her role. While the dialogue is a major set back here for any actor, her lines appear even less authentic than a majority of the other cast and as a lead character that just shouldn't be happening. The connection between the band is there, as they resemble an actual band with their behavior between them, but the level of character development between them varies. This is one aspect as to why the character interactions throughout feel unnatural and try to come off much more complexly written than they actually are. The dialogue is incredibly stiff with a guaranteed awkward delivery from every character. The dialogue is so horribly paced that it almost feels like the screenwriter, and more so the director, is in a rush to get to the next scene. Topped off by the emotion displayed being either overdramatic or hardly there depending on the actor and the scene, making some scenes laughable.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
"...It's message translates poorly to the screen...."
Slow motion is not this film's friend, and that comes severely into play during a crucial accident scene in the film. Visually the film feels unrealized as though it had bigger plans for itself; every category of the film resembles what we'd see from a low end "movie of the week.”
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
The film revolves around the music industry, and more importantly an up & coming band. Luckily for the film, this band actually has some great songs - well written and well performed.
Mighty Oak attempts to be meaningful, and at times even profound, but it's message translates poorly to the screen, making the film one of the cheesiest I've seen released by a major studio in quite some time.