Movie Review: “Pray for Rain,” but wear your waders

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Of all the named causes of California’s ongoing water shortages, and the water wars of the state’s agricultural heartland, the Central Valley — here’s one you never thought of. It’s all the fault of naive environmentalists who apparently hate farmers.

It’s got nothing to do with rain patterns shifting as the planet warms, thanks to burning fossil fuels. Let’s not talk about runaway development that fills the state with new residents, new homes for those residents and lawns and golf courses that help make Californians twice as thirsty as any other state in the U.S. And the farmers can’t be to blame for the allegedly wasteful sweetheart deals made decades ago that give them so much water to that they can grow broccoli in a damned desert.

No, environmentalists and their love of endangered species and their apparently unscrupulous funders have created this “fake” crisis.

That’s the utter horse-hockey premise of the drama “Pray for Rain,” a laughably ludicrous bit of right wing Big Oil agitprop from oil billionaire Forrest Lucas’s production company.

It’s about Emma, a New York fashion journalist (Annabelle Stephens) who comes home to the Central Valley after her farmer dad (John Heard, glimpsed in a farewell video) dies. She’s stuck dealing with her estranged mother (Jane Seymour), never without a drink in her hand and all too happy to ditch this farm and finally live somewhere fun, and perhaps not so dry.

“I’ve forgiven you,” Emma says through gritted teeth.’

“You’ve forgiven ME?” Mom growls back.

But the water wars in the county have brought in Hispanic gangsters, muscling farmers into selling out. Emma’s old high school buddy sheriff (Nicholas Gonzalez) seems helpless, even though his almond orchard owning dad (Paul Rodriguez) is one of those being threatened.

And there’s something fishy about Emma’s dad’s death. So she’ll blow off her fashion magazine boss (Missy Pyle, oh honey, why?) and root around to get to the bottom of this.

And at every point, as Emma sneaks up on covert meetings, flees from bad guys on her old dirt bike and wonders if the reason she hates her mother (she cheated) connects with all this, the fingers are pointed at those snooty, elite, environmental activists.

Director Alex Ranarivelo gives us about half as much action as it would take to hide the way the script (by actress turned writer Christina Moore and Gloria Musca) doesn’t massage or hide its mystery. This aspires to late night Hallmark Channel production values and entertainment level.

Because entertainment value isn’t what Ranarivelo is about. He makes movies with a message. He’s filmmaking’s Marco Rubio,  a feckless puppet who lives off the largess of his puppet master, right wing billionaire Forrest Lucas, of Lucas Oil.

Their first film together, as financier and filmmaker, was “The Dog Lover,” an expose of animal rights activism geared towards defending Lucas’s love of puppy mills.

Just so we know what we’re dealing with.

The caricatured environmentalists here are backed by a clueless little old lady, and are given to callously telling the failing farmers, “Challenge leads to opportunity.”

Government officials are lazy nap-taking do-nothings.

Hell, where’s the heroic oil man to offer to save the farmers through the miracle of fracking? Yeah, it’s that ridiculous, and all concerned — especially the Summer’s Eve who wrote the checks — should be embarrassed.

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Seymour gives the most interesting performance, and even it comes off like a pulled-punch.

No doubt most of those involved are praying for this to disappear as fast as Lucas’s movie money cash. That’s one thing Hollywood folks are good at — taking money from suckers with agendas.

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MPAA Rating:PG-13 for thematic elements and some violence

Cast: Annabelle Stephens, Jane Seymour, Nicholas Gonzalez, Paul Rodriguez, John Heard

Credits:Directed by Alex Ranarivelo , script by Christina Moore, Gloria Musca. An ESX release release.

Running time 1:35

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