Wednesday, 19 Dec 2018

‘God Bless the Broken Road’ Blu-ray Review

God Bless the Broken Road

THE SET-UP
After her husband is killed in Afghanistan, a mother (Lindsay Pulsipher) struggles to raise her young daughter and keep her home. Also stars Makenzie Moss, Andrew Walker, Kim Delaney, and Gary Grubbs. Directed by Harold Cronk.

THE DELIVERY
God Bless the Broken Road is an entertaining but flawed film about single mom Amber Hill (Pulsipher) who loses her faith when her husband is killed in war.

Amber struggles to keep her head above water, as she is on the verge of losing her home. Her daughter Bree is also torn between her mother and her grandmother, who offers a stable living situation. When a race car driver (Andrew Walker) comes into town and begins to bond with Bree, Amber faces a chance to move on.

The film could have been an effective exploration of personal loss and the path back to happiness, but the story is far too superficial. There are certainly the actors in place to deliver on the premise, but instead, the film decides to take a “Lifetime movie” approach, wasting all of their potential. Director Harold Cronk’s pedestrian script (co-written with Jennifer Dornbush) chooses to pepper the story with contrived, dramatic scenes, without striving to find any authenticity.

Robin Givens, “American Idol” alum Jordin Sparks, and former NFL star LaDainian Tomlinson all appear in the film, and while they each do their best with the lines they are given, they are sorely underused.

The two standouts of the film are Pulsipher (True Blood) and veteran actor Gary Grubbs (JFK, The O.C.), who manage to ground the film with their earnest performances. Pulsipher in particular does well to carry the film, even when the script gets a little too melodramatic. She could have overplayed the role easily, but instead she keeps it real enough to make her character relatable and sympathetic. Grubbs proves he is an actor who elevates any role he is given; he brings a likable charm to the role of Joe Carter, and he and Pulsipher are the movie’s saving graces.

The film has its moments, mostly thanks to Pulsipher’s solid performance. Rather than allowing her to explore the character in depth, however, we get a series of dramatic TV movie cliches. A home repossession, a missing child, and a car wreck all play into the plot. The most compelling plot point, a wife and mother struggling while mourning the loss of her husband in combat, actually gets downplayed, brought up only for a few dramatic moments.

There’s an attempt to work in car racing into the storyline, but it feels inauthentic. Any NASCAR fan would cry foul at the sight of a driver competing with his visor up, a sloppy choice that was likely deliberate so the viewer could see the actor better.

God Bless the Broken Road

Even the faith-based elements fall short. Pulsipher, Sparks, and Givens have chemistry together, but instead of having some “real” conversations, we only get platitudes. As a person of faith, I was sorely disappointed at the film’s superficial approach to the role of faith in helping people dealing with loss. It could have been handled with more authenticity than what was given here.

God Bless the Broken Road could have been so much better than it is. It certainly has the actors, and the story could have been an interesting human drama, but writer/director Cronk takes the easy route with Lifetime movie-like melodrama. It jumps around to multiple subplots to ratchet up the emotion, and it tries a bit too hard to wrap things up too neatly. It isn’t a terrible film, but it should have been so much more.

VIDEO AND AUDIO
The video transfer is excellent, with razor-sharp detail and realistic, natural colors on the Blu-ray. The night scenes look very good, with some inky blacks and nice contrast.

The audio is an English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix, and is surprisingly good, considering this is a modestly-budgeted family drama. The soundtrack is surprisingly well mixed, with the race car scenes offering up some OOMPH in the bass.

God Bless the Broken Road

SPECIAL FEATURES
The Blu-ray/DVD set does a decent job in the extras department. Some well-done behind-the-scenes featurettes are included, featuring a number of interviews with the cast and crew. It’s also a nice touch that two promotional pieces for Disabled American Vets are included.

The special features included on the disc are as follows:

“Delivering God’s Message: Casting God Bless the Broken Road” featurette. Lindsay Pulsipher and members of the cast discuss what drew them to the film, as well as the importance of faith to the story. Running Time: 14:57.

“Restoring Faith: Mending the Broken Road” featurette. Cast members discuss the faith-based aspects of the story. Several actors, including Madeline Carroll and LaDainian Tomlinson, share their own personal stories of faith. Running Time: 7:12.

“Pedals and Prayers: Racing Alongside God” featurette. The role of car racing in the film is explored. Berlin Speedway, where the racing scenes were filmed, is also featured. Running Time: 7:04.

“Keeping the Promise” featurette. This promotional piece for Disabled American Veterans outlines the work the organization does for veterans nationwide. Running Time: 3:38.

“Victories: Bobby, Mike, and Carmen” featurette. This promotional piece for Disabled American Veterans highlights three vets who received help from the organization. Running Time: 1:03.

Digital Copy. A code for a digital copy of the film, compatible with services including VUDU and FandangoNow, is included. Note that Lionsgate movies are not compatible with the Movies Anywhere Service.

THE BOTTOM LINE: God Bless the Broken Road falls short of its potential
God Bless the Broken Road has a solid premise, but it doesn’t quite hit the mark. It’s a bit melodramatic for its own good, although Lindsay Pulsipher and Gary Gibbs both deliver strong performances.

BLU-RAY SPECS
Release Date: December 4, 2018
Running Time: 111 minutes
Rating: PG
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
Subtitles: English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Spanish
Special Features: Five featurettes, Digital Copy.
Label: Lionsgate

Click here to order God Bless the Broken Road on Blu-ray!

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