Movie Review: “Where Hope Grows”

hope1“Where Hope Grows” is a sometimes moving and generally watchable melodrama about a drunken ex-ballplayer who finds purpose and a friend back in his home town.
But unlike most faith-based films, it isn’t a church that saves him, a pastor or devout Christian who shows him the way. It’s a teen with Down Syndrome.
The kid’s nicknamed Produce, thanks to his job at the local supermarket. That’s where Calvin Campbell (Kristoffer Polaha) stumbles into him. Calvin’s a single-dad whose teen daughter (McKaley Miller) is making bad choices, but he’s typically too tipsy to notice. He’s adrift, bitter about his lost career, refusing to look for a new one.
And then he creates a “Cleanup on aisle three.”
“I just trampled on one of your vegetables, ” he tells the kid.
“A tomato is a fruit,” Produce corrects him.
Produce is in the habit of hugging people he’s just met. And Calvin is struck by Produce’s in-the-moment optimism.
“I’m doing good. Even when I’m doing bad, I’m doing good.”
Calvin lets himself befriend Produce, and even though he resists the kid’s invitations to church, his always positive attitude starts to rub off.
And some of Calvin’s edge rubs off with it.
“Where Hope Grows” is straight melodrama, with daughter Katie’s jerk boyfriend (Michael Grant) nagging her about sex, Calvin pondering whether to get into AA (twelve step meetings are the movies’ easiest lump in the throat moment) and Produce straining to show “how smart” he is, and his true worth.
It’s all fairly routine, even if there’s a moment of violence, a hint of profanity, a little drinking and an unfaithful wife (Danica McKellar of “The Wonder Years,” the biggest name in the cast). But it works, here and there, and Polaha is perfectly believable as an ex-jock and ex-jerk who lets a little child lead him out of the darkness.

MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for thematic issues involving drinking and teen sexuality, and for brief language and an accident scene

Cast: Kristoffer Polaha, David DeSanctis, McKaley Miller, Michael Grant, Danica McKellar
Credits: Written and directed by Chris Dowling. A Roadside Attractions release.

Running time: 1:35

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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4 Responses to Movie Review: “Where Hope Grows”

  1. John Hammon says:

    David Desanctis is not a “boy,” nor is Produce a boy. David is a man portraying a man. To refer to him as a boy is a subconscious dismissal. I would love to see this small but significant error corrected in this review. Thanks for reading!

    • David is playing a teen, or a boyish 20 year old. He is treated as a peer of the high school bully and the jock’s daughter. His character is a boy, as cast, no matter what the actor’s biological age.

      • Kevin O'Bryan says:

        He is not treated as a peer by the high school bully. The bully treats him as lesser. He lives alone. Please examine you perception of him. He is also not a little child. No mention of the line “just like the ‘n’ word we don’t use the “R” word. Also, “straining” to show how smart he is? He doesn’t have to strain to show his true worth, it seems that you need to strain to see it.

      • I have no interest in defining the word “peer” to you. Look it up. It doesn’t mean “equal,” but similar in age, a contemporary. His mother died, he is below the radar and out of the school system and thus alone. 19-20, tops. Young enough to be considered a boy within the context of an adult world. And his happiness at being called “smart” is self-explanatory. Or is to most of us.

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