Brad J. Silverman’s Grace Unplugged attempts to convey a simple message about how chasing fame and fortune may not be the most fulfilling lifestyle. I’ll admit that this can be a worthy argument to make within certain contexts, but throwing it out there in this picture’s cheesy, preachy, unrealistically corn-fed manner is not the way to do it. I’ll likely get fussed at by certain readers claiming my distaste for this film is born out of some anti-Christian bias. I’ll go ahead and promise that I’m not anti-Christian; I’m simply against hokey, manipulative and naive movies.
Our main character Grace (A.J. Michalka, Super 8) is a young musician whose once famous singer-songwriter father, Johnny (TV actor James Denton), has sobered up, found Jesus and is now a simple family man. They perform together at various churches, an act that’s become difficult since Grace is in the terminal stages of teen angst and is having trouble getting along with dad. After a conveniently placed plot point involving one of Johnny’s old hits getting attention again, his old manager, Mossy (Kevin Pollak, thankfully refraining from any Christopher Walken impersonations), shows up with a record deal and promises of a world tour. Happy with family life, Johnny declines. But Grace seizes the opportunity to chase her dreams of musical stardom, runs away to L.A. and joins up with Mossy to cover dad’s old song and ride his coattails to fame and riches.
From here, the film becomes a treatise on the dangers of the secular music industry, none of which is particularly surprising or interesting. Most of the film is driven by things like Grace being corrupted by a glass of champagne and continually being screwed over by Mossy and the music industry. The film feeds off a certain naivete, both from its characters and, one assumes, its audience. This is, after all, a movie that has Grace booking shows and going on countrywide tours, even though, we’re told, she has only one song she’s recorded or can perform. Predictably, Grace will learn the error of her ways and the dangers of fame, be reminded of the power of family and God, and eventually fall in love with the dopey Christian record company intern (Michael Welch, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part I). (Never mind that everyone in this movie’s been in Hollywood productions and certainly aren’t in the business for their health.) Occasionally, the film stops for bits of preachiness, usually accompanied by a schmaltzy score full of swelling oboes for maximum solemnity, all the while proving that Grace Unplugged is ineffectual as both entertainment and religious tract. Rated PG for thematic elements and brief teen drinking.
Playing at Carmike 10, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande