Sometimes a movie just speaks to you. One of the first films to do that for me was A Walk to Remember. When it came out, I was 20, I was in college, and something was missing in my life. That film filled the void. It’s not exactly an award winning flick and it wasn’t filmed for the 20 year old male demographic, but it made me whole, it filled something that I thought I was missing. I’ve probably seen that film more than 1000 times. Something similar happened for me with the movie version of Rent. I had passing knowledge of the musical, but I had never seen it and when that film came out, I instantly fell in love. I’ve since seen the musical on stage multiple times, but I keep coming back to the film, I’m sure I’ve seen it several hundred times. There’s a real catharsis that these films bring about for me that is difficult to explain with words. Just like we all have songs we listen to when we want to cry, these are the films I watch for that same reason. I think, now, that I may have another movie to add to that mix – Mighty Oak.
Let’s address the film’s flaws first. Might Oak is not going to win any awards for dialogue. While the actors save it from being painful, a less talented group may have suffered. I was surprised by this because the writer, Matt Allen, also gave us Four Christmases, which I loved. Even though the dialogue is a let down, don’t let that stop you from watching this film. While Allen let us down in the individual lines, he made up for it with an incredibly movie and heartfelt story. This feels like a Hallmark Channel movie that is too good for Hallmark Channel. I think part of the reason for that is the cast, many of them are recognizable but not the typical blockbuster names. Janel Parrish, Alexa PenaVega, and Carlos PenaVega are the stars of the film. While all three are stars for multiple reasons, the main reason I recognized their names was Dancing with the Stars – all three have appeared on the show. The movie also Raven-Symone, Levi Dylan, Rodney Hicks, Nana Ghana, Ben Milliken, and Tommy Ragen.
This cast, this brilliant, amazing cast, is why I think the film does so well. As I said, the dialogue is rocky but the story is awesome and this cast tells that story perfectly. Janel Parrish and Alexa PenaVega both gave the performances of their lifetimes. Tommy Ragen (Oak Scoggins), who has starred in the musical School of Rock, is a musical prodigy that brings a level of believability to the screen that couldn’t have happened with a less talented individual. Carlos PenaVega is perfect as Oak’s mentor and Raven-Symone steps in at just the right moment with a few amazing one-liners. They are all supported by individuals that lend a lot of musical credibility to the film – Levi Dylan (son of Jakob Dylan, grandson of Bob Dylan), Rodney Hicks (an original cast member from Rent), and Gianna Harris (School of Rock the Musical).
In the film, Gina (Parrish) loses her brother, Vaughn (Dylan), the front-man for their band Army of Love in a horrific car accident. The band is lost without their singer, Gina is lost without her brother and nothing is working out for any of them. Until the band’s biggest fan, restaurant owner DB (Hicks) gifts Vaughn’s guitar to the best friend (Ragen) of his daughter, Emma (Harris). Gina sees Vaughn in her brother and a path back to what she once had. At the same time, Oak doesn’t have the best home life and he finds a family in the member of the band. It is a touching, heartfelt story that that many would likely describe as cliche. I, however, see it as exactly what the world needs right now.
At the end of the day, you need to see this film. Sit down with a bowl of buttery popcorn, a couple of sodas, and your loved ones and watch this film with all of its happiness and sadness. Its uplifting story and music are sure to bring positivity to your day. Mighty Oak is available on digital platforms on July 7.
Movie title: Mighty Oak
Movie description: Gina and Vaughn are the sister and brother duo taking the SoCal music scene by storm with their band Army of Love. Gina “Jean Jacket” Jackson (Janel Parrish) is behind the scenes as the savvy and determined music manager while her talented brother Vaughn Jackson (Levi Dylan) is the gifted frontman of their popular band. On the night of their biggest break yet, the siblings’ bond is shattered when Vaughn is killed in a tragic car accident and Gina is unable to pick up the pieces of her life. Ten years later, a 4th grade guitar prodigy named Oak Scoggins (Tommy Ragen) enters Gina’s orbit, and she becomes convinced that this child must be the reincarnation of Vaughn. While Oak does have Vaughn’s talent and some of his traits, Gina’s friends become concerned with her decision to re-launch their long dormant band with Oak as the frontman taking Vaughn’s place. Oak comes from a disadvantaged household and as he is thrust into the spotlight, he finds that music is the perfect escape and the much needed outlet for his pain. Gina in turn finds an outlet for her grief and a way back into living life out loud and to the fullest.
Date published: 2020-07-07
Director(s): Sean McNamara,
Actor(s): Janel Parrish, Levi Dylan, Tommy Ragen, Carlos PenaVega, Alexa PenaVega, Raven-Symone, Ben Milliken, Nana Ghana, Rodney Hicks, Gianna Harris
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