Movie Review ~ The King’s Daughter

The Facts:

Synopsis: King Louis XIV’s quest for immortality leads him to capture and steal a mermaid’s life force, a move that is further complicated by his illegitimate daughter’s discovery of the creature.

Stars: Pierce Brosnan, Kaya Scodelario, Benjamin Walker, Rachel Griffiths, Fan Bingbing, William Hurt, Julie Andrews, Pablo Schreiber, Ben Lloyd-Hughes, Crystal Clarke

Director: Sean McNamara

Rated: PG

Running Length: 97 minutes

TMMM Score: (4.5/10)

Review: It’s always a question for me of how much I want to research a movie I’m reviewing before I screen in because once you’ve learned a factoid or read about some behind-the-scenes drama, you can’t unknow it. I’ve been good lately at going in sight unseen to most of the films I’m fortunate enough to see, and that was the case with The King’s Daughter – which turned out to be a perfect thing. Only after it ended, and I began to get this write-up pulled together, did I start to find out more about just how old the movie was and the troubled traveling it had to do to be released at all. In some ways, it helps explain a few of the fantasy flick’s more…unique quirks. Still, in others, it just confirms that perhaps, like the well-worn, gilded storybook that opens at the beginning of the film for an Oscar-winner to narrate, this may have sat on the shelf too long and expired before audiences could enjoy it.

Based on The Moon and the Sun, a 1997 novel by Vonda N McIntyre, the film was completed way back in 2014, almost a decade ago now, and has been bounced around release schedules and studios ever since. Featuring a not-unimpressive cast filming on location at the Palace of Versailles and Australia and eventually re-titled The King’s Daughter, director Sean McNamara has managed to direct a whopping twelve movies since wrapping the picture. Heck, it wasn’t until mid-June 2020 that Julie Andrews (Aquaman) was announced as the film’s narrator, hinting it was more than just completion of the special effects that delayed the movie all this time. Once you see the finished film, the end product of much-suspected tinkering and long hours of labor in the editing bay, you’ll agree.

It’s hard to argue with any entertainment that opens with Andrews’s melodic voice narrating the history of the cast of characters populating our story. While it sounds like Andrews may have recorded this during a lunch break from recording her audiobook, her brief presence gives the film the necessary opening energy to help it start on the right foot. Pretty soon, the tale of a vain King (Pierce Brosnan, Cinderella) injured in battle who approves his physician (Pablo Schrieber, The Devil Has a Name) to locate a mermaid from Atlantis and perform an ancient ceremony, involving vivisection of the mythical creature, gets dragged down by overdramatic performances and bewildering thematic tone shifts. Added into the mix is the King’s illegitimate daughter (Kaya Scodelario, Crawl), who has been brought to court but not told who her father is. Wouldn’t you know, she finds a friend in the mermaid and doesn’t like it when the King she’s grown to respect turns out to be less than noble when it comes to her new fishy pal.

Halfway through the movie, I was in deep despair because the acting was all over the map, and some terrific actors were delivering (more like hurling at the screen) performances that make you wonder if the job was taken as broad acting experience more than anything. Even the usually dry William Hurt (Winter’s Tale), as a priest and confidant to the raucous King, comes off as downright boisterous. It was at the middle mark when I realized that The King’s Daughter wasn’t for most audiences at all; it was for younger kids wanting to bridge the gap between animated films and more mature PG-13 content. Arriving in safe PG territory, the movie is ‘just so’ about everything, with nothing too extreme (aside from the overly zealous performances and Brosnan’s unruly wig), so parents could easily treat this one as a special event for their growing youngster. 

Aside from that, I’m not sure how many adults would go for this often ludicrous fantasy which is filmed and costumed to look like an Estée Lauder ad from 1996. Nothing about it seems quite fitting, much less the way the elite would have been adorned at court in Versailles. We all know the palace in France was the place to see and be seen, but the attire on display here is a trivial interpretation that often comes off as laughable. Take Scodelario’s big reveal dress, for instance. She’s meant to be wearing a gorgeous gown everyone is drooling over, but it looks like a frock you’d find the night before prom…and don’t even get me started on the shoes. Thankfully, Scodelario is acting the hell out of the role and bringing alone husband Benjamin Walker (The Choice, a dead-ringer for Liam Neeson as Qui-Gon Jinn in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace). The chemistry they have is, understandably, believable. Though the effects often hide her, Fan Bingbing (The 355) manages to get some emotion through as the mermaid everyone is out to either save or, gulp, eat.

I’m sure many people involved with The King’s Daughter are just glad it’s finally surfacing after all this time. Fans of the book may not be thrilled because it sounds like the film diverts quite significantly from the original text, but the adaptation from Barry Berman and James Schamus makes it far more family-friendly. That’s what this one is targeted to and should be marketed for, anyway. If you meet the demographic that would enjoy this sometimes sloppy, often soggy fairytale, then I would say giving it a shot might be worth your time. Swim right by if the material doesn’t speak to you from the advertising alone. There’s plenty of fish in the sea.

Movie Review ~ First Blush

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The Facts
:

Synopsis: A young, happy-ish married couple’s relationship is thrown off its axis when they meet Olivia. The trio’s attraction to each other is undeniable, but when they become romantically involved, they push each other’s boundaries to the limits as they discover painful truths about who they are, what they want, and how to love in turbulent times.

Stars: Rachel Alig, Ryan Caraway, Kate Beecroft, Jordee Kopanski, Christopher Moaney-Lawson, Riley Ceder, Kevin Newman

Director: Victor Neumark

Rated: NR

Running Length: 107 minutes

TMMM Score: (6/10)

Review:  What we have in First Blush is a tale as old as time.  A not-quite-old-enough-to-have-regrets-yet person experiences an emotional crisis, spurring them to venture outside of their comfort zone to explore a life beyond their perceived limitations.  Whether they are actually being held back isn’t really the point, the point is that they’ve made a realization that their world needs a shift, a realignment, and they seize on an opportunity to effect that change.  Eventually leading to a catharsis (usually after a rough fallout that leaves a heart or two broken), this individual stares into the sunset before the credits roll, takes a deep breath, and exhales into the fadeout stronger than they were when the movie began.

In writer/director Victor Neumark’s First Blush, a 2019 indie production that made its way through the festival circuit and is now debuting on streaming services as well as BluRay (for a whopping $39 last time I checked!), our on-the-edge sunset-starer is Nena (Rachel Alig) and she’s turning 30 as the film opens.  To the casual observer, Nena is “adulting” correctly.  She has a steady job, a convenient place to live in the Silver Lake area of Los Angeles, and a husband, Drew (Ryan Caraway), who cares enough to plan a surprise birthday party but doesn’t know her well enough to understand why she isn’t a fan of these types of gatherings.  Maybe a little on the controlling side, she otherwise seems like any other person approaching a milestone birthday that wants to see that event pass by quietly with as few outsiders noticing as possible.

At the party, a new face catches Nena’s eye.  Olivia (Kate Beecroft) a former model now working at the coffee shop along with Nena’s friend Carrie (a tirelessly perky Jordee Kopanski) who Nena winds up having a friendly and, was she imagining it?, flirty conversation with.  Several days later, on a weekend camping trip with Carrie and her fiancé John (the nicely droll Christopher Moaney-Lawson) Olivia is there too and that’s when Drew starts to also pick up on a vibe between his wife and this new woman.  There’s something there for him too…but he’s not sure what that means for either of the women.  A solo night in with the three of them later confirms the spark and a fire is lit.  It’s the start of a relationship between three people that tests bonds of marriage, friendship, honesty, and trust over the course of several months as it wends its way to a crossroads where the paths that lay ahead aren’t paved with smooth stones that are easy to traverse.

Over the past few decades in film, we’ve almost been trained to equate the term “threesome” with some taboo subject involving material too racy to be mainstream and that’s why it’s a shame the relatively benign First Blush didn’t get a wider distribution.  I appreciated Neumark’s sensitive handling of the movie’s more intimate encounters, making it more about the connection than anything explicit or highly erotic in nature.  It’s far more emotional than sexual and Neumark courageously taps into frank conversations that make the viewer feel like a voyeur into a couples counseling session we shouldn’t be privy to.  While it does attempt to explain some of the needs fulfilled within a polyamorous relationship, it stops short of advocating one way or the other.  The approach to what can be considered unapproachable is to be applauded.

Also garnering praise are the performances, mainly Alig projecting the right balance of curiosity tempered with frustrated uncertainty…and not just because of her relationship with Olivia.  We get the impression there are other factors in her life and relationship with Drew before we dropped in that are a source of stress and this new outlet that feels right at the time is one way she exorcises herself and finds some kind of release.  When it starts to get out of her control is when she finds she needs to hit the pause button, but that happens to be the exact moment Drew and Olivia are finally feeling they are the most comfortable.

That’s also where I started to have issues with the way the script starts to place blame on Nena’s objection to certain behavior exhibited by her new friend and, most importantly, her husband.  Yes, she was the one that may have broached the idea of exploration at first but when communication begins to break down and parts of this increasingly tricky triangle are left out of the equation, it can only lead to the series of events Neumark has laid out like mini landmines for his characters and it’s mostly Nena that winds up having to tread carefully.  Over the run time, Neumark establishes roles for the characters and I wasn’t completely on board with how he managed to align his small cast.  Without giving away any spoilers, when you have to change some fundamental aspects of a character that were established earlier on just to make a point, there’s something off in your storytelling.  As strong as Alig is, I wish Caraway was a bit more on her level in the intensity department because he comes off strangely removed not just from the situation but from the film itself…as if he was distancing himself subconsciously.

There’s a small subplot involving Olivia’s brother that should have been left on the cutting room floor because it’s equal parts unnecessary to the overall arc of our main characters and not acted convincingly by either Beecroft or Riley Ceder.  It would have trimmed the run time to be a hair tighter, keeping the energy up when First Blush needs it the most.  Still. it’s well made and possesses that warm California indie spirit glow.  I can’t say how well Neumark got inside the ménage à trois featured in First Blush but it feels like there was a level of respect for those that find that arrangement works for them.  It certainly doesn’t pass judgement and what counterarguments it provides, it applies with a gentle hand.

Movie Review ~ Our Friend

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The Facts
:

Synopsis: After learning his terminally ill wife has six months to live, a man welcomes the support of his best friend who moves into their home to help out.

Stars: Casey Affleck, Dakota Johnson, Jason Segel, Gwendoline Christie, Cherry Jones, Ahna O’Reilly, Jake Owen, Denée Benton, Marielle Scott, Isabella Kai Rice, Violet McGraw, Michael Papajohn

Director: Gabriela Cowperthwaite

Rated: R

Running Length: 124 minutes

TMMM Score: (8/10)

Review: As we kick off a new year here and cross our fingers that 2021 will signal the start of better things to come, I’m also looking forward to movies getting back to business and releasing some titles that have been hovering around in limbo for a while.  Sure, there are the blockbuster properties that keep getting pushed back (the latest James Bond film No Time to Die just moved its arrival date yet again, this time to October 2021) or released directly to on demand/subscription streaming (Wonder Woman 1984) but then there are the more niche movies that showed up at film festivals in late 2019/early 2020.  Some of these may have had a distributor lined up that fell through when the pandemic hit or are going through their own release date shifts on a smaller scale.

Debuting at the Toronto International Film Festival in September of 2019 when it was still called The Friend, the new drama Our Friend is one of those movies that has gotten lost on its way to a general release but is finally seeing the light of day.  Now, for some reason the delays and distributor shifts have cast a small cloud of strangely bad press over the film and that’s unfortunate because Our Friend signals the return of two important things that have been missing from movies for a few years.  The first is Jason Segel’s welcome appearance after a small hiatus and the second is the true-blue five hankie weepie that seemed to go out of fashion in the mid ‘90s.  Both are reason enough to cheer on this solid effort but it’s richly rewarding in other areas as well.

Based on Matthew Teague’s article in the May 2015 issue of Esquire magazine (read it here, but it does contain spoilers from the movie), Our Friend tests your mettle within the first five minutes, almost as a way to prime you for the next two hours to see if you’ll break easy or if you’ll need an extra dose of sorrow to get those tear ducts flowing.  Nicole Teague (Dakota Johnson, Suspiria) has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and given a limited amount of time to live.  Her journalist/author husband Matthew (Casey Affleck, The Old Man & the Gun) is at-first ill-prepared to deal with the enormous responsibility of caring for their two young children as well as his increasingly fragile wife while staying afloat personally and professionally.  That’s where Dane Faucheux (Segel, Jeff, Who Lives at Home) comes in.

A friend from Nicole’s theater days (she was a semi-professional actress, he was on the tech side), Dane steps away from his life, his job, and a budding relationship to live with the Teague’s, eventually staying for the duration of Nicole’s illness.  While he’s a bit of a schlub, he’s the perfect breath of fresh air the household needs, especially the daughters that aren’t aware of the severity of their mother’s illness and who are growing to recognize their resentment toward their father for his absence earlier in their lives when he was often traveling internationally for work.  Isolated once well-meaning friends have moved on with their own lives, the job of caregivers falls to Matt and Dane exclusively.  Through this time together, the men form a stronger bond over the love they both have, in different ways, for Nicole and learn how to care for her individually and as a unit with the aid of a professional nurse that arrives at just the right moment (Cherry Jones, Boy Erased) so her final days are as full and memorable as possible.

After seeing the movie but before writing this review I read Matthew Teague’s original article that inspired the film and was struck by how well Brad Ingelsby (Out of the Furnace) brought the characters to life for the screen.  Now, there are some situations not covered in the article that delve into more personal issues within Matt and Nicole’s relationship and I’d be interested to know if they were imagined or factual but I appreciated the small details Ingelsby worked in throughout.  The article was praised for its raw, unglamorous, unflinching reaction to the death of a loved one and the description of what it’s like to live through that and I think the movie naturally recoils a bit from going that far.  While to some that may rob the movie of its street cred authenticity to its source material, what it’s been replaced with calls forth many of the same emotions…just in a different way.

Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite made a significant impact with her documentary Blackfish in 2013 before transitioning into narrative features with 2017’s Megan Leavey and she brings her good instincts for drama and humanity to the table for her second full-length feature.  Ingelsby’s script isn’t linear, broken up into scenes that jump from the present to the past to the present to the not quite as past as before and onward.  It’s strange but in other hands that jumping around could drain the film of its emotional build-up but it actually works in the opposite.  Knowing where the film is heading and then seeing where these characters began makes the heartbreak have that much more of an impact when we jump back to the present and see Nicole in the final stages of a ravaging disease.

As much as the jaded movie-goer (and critic) might think it’s every actor’s dream to play a dying swan of a role, it’s such a demanding task that requires some careful skill and thankfully Johnson is cast perfectly as Nicole.  Never laying it on thick, she fades in health with a slight delicacy, and you’re reminded again that Johnson continues to be quite the underrated actor.  No stranger to aching sorrow-fests, Oscar-winner Affleck’s character has so many qualities we can all relate to that you can’t help but cast yourself often as the protagonist…when you’re not seeing the situation through Dane’s vantage point.  Matt Teague has some interesting quirks about him and Affleck captures those nicely, feeding off the warmth of Johnson and the fervent support Segel is offering up.  Speaking of Segal, what a fantastic role for him and it’s another step away from the types of characters he was known for playing a decade ago.  Showing a staunch commitment to going outside of the box but also not playing inside the sharp edges of a triangle, Segel knows where he’s comfortable now and that ease translates into a character built from the ground up.  I’d be totally remiss if I didn’t mention Jones, who just exudes warmth whenever she enters a movie, even if she appears only briefly.

If you can get through Our Friend and not choke up just a little bit, especially the last thirty minutes, then you are made of stronger stuff than I am.  Maybe it’s because I have personal experience from a similar situation to what this family went through and some of the finality portrayed onscreen, but the movie hit a nerve that hasn’t been tweaked in some time.  Do you want it totally truthful?  Honestly? I don’t think the movie even overdoes the emotional manipulation and forces the tears out of you…for once they actually spring naturally based on the quality of the performances, direction, and writing.  It feels good to have a reason to cry for all the right reasons.

Movie Review ~ Backwoods (2020)

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The Facts
:

Synopsis: A high-school cheerleader comes face-to-face with the town urban legend: The Hangman, a deformed zealot said to lynch male trespassers and keep the women as “brides”.

Stars: Jeremy Sande, Isabella Alberti, Tahj Vaughans, Michael Anthony Bagozz

Director: Thomas Smith

Rated: NR

Running Length: 70 minutes

TMMM Score: (3/10)

Review: Without indie cinema, we wouldn’t have many of the great directors we have today and we certainly wouldn’t be where we are with horror films without landmark grassroots efforts like George Romero’s 1968 Night of the Living Dead and John Carpenter’s low-budget Halloween from 1978. A number of these films might have lacked in budget but made up for it with an ingenuity that the latest studio product couldn’t match no matter how much money was thrown at it.  That’s why I’m always interested in those teeny-tiny horror films that might look rough and ragged in their marketing as it’s often a sign they’ve wisely spent their bucks on more important things.  On the other hand, my spidey-senses ping high whenever the poster for the movie looks like it cost more than the entire production.

Maybe it was the post-Thanksgiving haze I was in, but I was clearly off my game when I fired up Backwoods, a no-budget slasher film with a bland title befitting the overall effect of watching the movie.  Despite a semi-promising beginning and narrative structure that uses Memento-ish flashbacks to help us piece together an internal mystery on top of typical slice and dice tropes, the movie caves in on itself via a black hole of lousy performances and bad filmmaking.  That’s too bad, too, because while I’m no fan of plagiarism there’s flashes of ingenuity in the script from husband-and-wife duo Thomas Smith and Erin Lilley that someone out to recycle into something better.

Wasting no time (the film is barely an hour long), Backwoods starts with high-school cheerleader Molly (Kelly Osborne look-alike Isabella Alberti) trapped in a trunk, the victim of a kidnapping by an assailant presumed to be a local legend come to life.  Through a series of flashbacks and subsequent flash forwards, we get an idea of what led Molly and several of her friends to be in their current predicament running for their lives in the woods and how the real evil may not be exactly what we originally thought.  Mixed in it all is a post-game house party for the football players and their friends in the middle of nowhere occupied by a flock of amateur actors desperately trying to look like high schoolers while also attempting to not look into the camera by staring straight into it.  There’s also some backstory on the lore of The Hangman who has snatched poor Molly, but the poor guy is given short shrift in the development of plot but ample time obviously was devoted on the make-up work. When we get a look at the rude dude up close, the effect is decent but only when it stays in the shadows.  After too much light shines on it you’ll get state fair haunted house vibes.

Also serving as the director, Smith stumbles with his own screenplay by keeping in some lame bits of dialogue that start out cringe-y and wind up feeling like bee stings when delivered without inflection (and sometimes proper amplification) by the weak cast.  Oh the pain of watching two guys talking about hot chicks while drinking two cold brewskies in front of a bare lightbulb…and the point is…?  Even co-screenwriter Lilley makes it a full family affair by playing Feral Woman (and trying to avoid the spotlight by being credited under the name, wait for it, Feral Woman) as a series of grunts and nasal huffs.  Isabella Alberti (one of two Alberti girls in the film) is actually a rather plucky heroine, if only she weren’t deluged with such ding-dong dialogue and playing second fiddle to guts and gore which are rendered well, if too sparingly.

A proper ending takes a backseat in Backwoods and I actually rewound the screening link twice to make sure I didn’t miss anything.  The movie basically just ends, showing that either the screenwriters deliberately wanted to make their finale obtuse or they didn’t know how to go out with a bang so they opted to just cut things off mid last gasp.  Cheap production values that feel like a too-long student film and a school bus full of of terrible performances (i.e. most of the supporting players) bury this one deep…which is where Backwoods will end up in the annals of horror categories you browse on your streaming services.  Extremely skippable and you’re advised to do so.

Movie Review ~ The Secret: Dare to Dream


The Facts
:

Synopsis: Miranda Wells is a hard-working young widow struggling to raise three children on her own. A powerful storm brings a devastating challenge and a mysterious man into her life.

Stars: Katie Holmes, Josh Lucas, Jerry O’Connell, Celia Weston, Sarah Hoffmeister, Aidan Pierce Brennan, Chloe Lee, Katrina Begin, Sydney Tennant, Samantha Beaulieu

Director: Andy Tennant

Rated: PG

Running Length: 107 minutes

TMMM Score: (5/10)

Review:  If this were a normal summer, we’d be neck deep in sonic boom blockbusters and hyperactive animated family entertainment at theaters by this time.  The majority of the touted releases would have seen their big debuts and faced the critical eyes of audiences around the world, hopefully making their money back and more.  When the pandemic closed movie houses around the globe and forced studios to shift their tentpole pictures months or years out, it left a rare opening for films less reliant on a built in fan base to get seen and that’s why smaller (mostly horror) movies like Relic, The Wretched, The Rental, Valley Girl, Miss Juneteenth, and Palm Springs have all posted decent numbers in their limited releases at drive-ins.  Now it’s not mega-money, the #8 film at the recent box office made $535 bucks, but at least it’s something.

If a movie like The Secret: Dare to Dream had kept to its original release date, it would have shown up in mid-April right before the heavy hitters started to appear but even so it’s hard not to see the film for the keen bit of counter-programming it is.  As someone that can take or leave these soapy romantic dramas but isn’t totally averse to giving one a chance, I was curious to see what a film based on a 2006 new-agey self-help documentary and its spin-off book would look like.  Though it doesn’t come armed with a doctrine as obvious as I anticipated, there’s an underlying message of goodness to be found and for once it doesn’t feel strained.  It’s more formulaic than the theory of relativity, but also, oddly, almost compellingly watchable in the way these types of easily digestible movies so often are.

Louisiana widow Miranda (Katie Holmes, Woman in Gold) is keeping her head above water even as the bills pile up and the life she thought she had planned slips through her fingers.  Her children are your typical movie youths running from temperamental teen to pony-loving grade schooler, yet they all manage to band together to help boost mom’s spirits when they can.   Their grandmother (Celia Weston, The Intern) wishes Miranda would sell their large but in need of repair house and marry a local entrepreneur (Jerry O’Connell, Wish Upon) but there’s something keeping Miranda from starting a new life.  Opportunity presents itself the same day a hurricane is set to hit their town, when she winds up in a fender bender with Bray (Josh Lucas, Ford v Ferrari) who just happens to be looking for her.  She doesn’t know it yet, but Bray has business with Miranda that becomes the Big Secret the movie holds onto until the Big Reveal near the end.  In the first of many wholly unbelievable plot contrivances, Miranda welcomes this total stranger into her home without question and the only one other than the grandmother that seems to find this odd is the viewer.  Charming though Lucas may come across on screen, he does appear a bit squirmy in the balmy humidity of a Louisiana hurricane season; why Miranda would accept him so effortlessly, especially with her young children present, is a mystery.   Evidently, stranger-danger is a thing of the past.

At the outset, you can feel the influence of the source material on the movie and the situations screenwriters Bekah Brunstetter, Rick Parks, and Andy Tennant (Grease 2) place Miranda and Bray in.  The film stops cold when Bray walks the children through a demonstration with magnets on the laws of attraction, a tenet of The Secret which makes the claim that thoughts (good and bad) can change a person’s life directly.   There’s a bit of mumbo-jumbo to suggest some magic in the air with this power of positive thinking having some influence on wishes coming true but almost as soon as these instances appear, they seem to be abandoned for more straight-forward dramatic storytelling that’s familiar and predictable.  Also serving as director, Tennant has helmed his fair share of rom-coms and while the movie isn’t big on laughs it does have the tiniest bit of a spring it its step and a sliver of a sense of humor which helps it from being taken too seriously.

Audiences will know the ending long before Miranda and Bray do so your enjoyment of the movie hinges on what you think of its stars.  Holmes has grown from a child star into a nicely committed actress, very much at home in these types of mom/comfort-giver roles and while there’s not a lot of range shown she finds a nice balance in the material so that it doesn’t teeter into overly saccharine.  Dealt a bit of a tough hand, Lucas has to battle back some early creeper vibes…the more you tell yourself this is a PG romantic drama the more you’ll convince yourself he isn’t there to do any harm to Holmes or her kids.  You feel especially bad for O’Connell in a totally thankless role as Miranda’s would-be suitor.  He barely gets an introduction or a proper good-bye.  Perhaps the most interesting character is meant to be the most irritating and that’s Weston as the fuddy-duddy grandmother that’s always a pest, until she does an about-face because the film needs her stamp of approval.

Take away all the rhetoric and hokey nonsense that the filmmakers don’t even stick with for long and there’s an occasionally interesting and comfortably casual viewing experience.  There are certainly more aggressively cheerful movies in recent release attempting to elicit the same type of audience reaction to far less successful results…I’d watch this one again before I’d get anywhere near something like the soggy Fisherman’s Friends, for instance.  To be clear, The Secret: Dare to Dream is as average as they come (don’t even get me started on that dreadful title) but truth be told it managed to keep me engaged far longer than I thought it would.