A movie review of “Where Hope Grows”: A drunken ex-ballplayer (Kristoffer Polaha) lets a teen with Down syndrome lead him out of the darkness in this faith-based film. Rating: 1.5 stars out of 4.
“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 hometown.
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 is nicknamed Produce (David DeSanctis), 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.
Movie Review ★½
‘Where Hope Grows,’ with Kristoffer Polaha, David DeSanctis, McKaley Miller, Michael Grant, Danica McKellar. Written and directed by Chris Dowling. 95 minutes. Rated PG-13 for thematic issues involving drinking and teen sexuality, and for brief language and an accident scene. Several theaters.
And then he creates a “Cleanup on aisle three.”
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“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 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 child lead him out of the darkness.