Studio: Arc EntertainmentFormat: DVD, 96 minutes
Starring: Ryan Scharoun, Ashley Anderson McCarthy, and Casey Bond with Steven Curtis Chapman, Mark Hall (with Casting Crowns), and Matthew West.
About the Movie: Ring The Bell shares the story of a slick, big city sports agent Rob Decker who seems to have it all. But on his latest mission to sign a high school baseball superstar, Rob becomes stranded in a small town where the simplicity of life -- and the faith of the people -- stands in stark contrast to his own fast-paced, win-at-all-costs mindset. Torn between these two worlds, will Rob have the courage to let faith transform his life? This heartwarming story of redemption is sure to entertain and inspire the whole family.
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Other than the music artists, I didn't know anything about the film. I could tell it was about baseball, but beyond that I had no clue. Unfamiliar with the cast, and unsure what we would experience, hubby and I sat down with a pizza and pressed play.
Ring The Bell starts a little slowly. While the opening set establishes the character of sports agent Rob Decker, the staging seemed lackluster and the acting stiff. Still, the scene fulfills its purpose of quickly showing the viewer what kind of man Rob Decker is: a guy so focused on success -- in his mind, money, wealth, and power -- that he never calls his mother, and he nearly fires his best employee for refusing an assignment because the employee wants to see his kid's first baseball game.
So begins our story. That employee having refused the assignment, Rob himself goes off to a small town to try to lure a talented high school ball player away from his verbal commitment with a college. When his fancy sports car broke down, I groaned, as it seemed like I was in for Abel's Field part two. However, once Rob reaches his destination -- Middletown -- the film picks up. It's really the town, and the people living there, that shapes the film.
As far as the actors go, it took me a while to warm up to main star Ryan Sharoun as Rob Decker. What really makes a film successful is its characters. And for characters to come alive, they need to feel real. When I watched Abel's Field, I forgot I was watching a story. I lost myself in trying to get to know the people on the screen. That never quite happened with Rob Decker. It did happen, to some degree, with the more compelling characters of Daisy Cooke and her brother, Scooter. So I guess it's only natural that the film's message is imparted through their words and lives. (The message also gets delivered through Mark Hall's altar call at the Casting Crown's concert.) It's at their boys' home, The Cooke Boys Ranch, where Rob Decker finds there is more to life than work, and more to the world than his own desires.
The biggest surprise was Casey Bond who plays Scooter. Casey is a former professional baseball player and this is his first feature role. He took a scene that was heavy and didactic, but made it feel personal and homey. Ashley Anderson McCarthy does the same with her portrayal of Daisy. She is so sweet and likeable that coming from her the story's little homilies never become heavy-handed.
My main issue with the film, beyond the bumpy beginning and seemingly unnecessary contrivance of the car breaking down, is that change comes a bit too quickly and too readily for Rob. While he does have missed opportunities, delays, and doubts, it might have been more effective if the film had verbalized some of his internal struggle. The actor is given little with which to emote other than reacting to others' words and lives. It would have been nice to get a bigger glimpse into his own head. I can only assume that the filmmakers wanted people to be able to identify with the character, so they kept the film's focus and its story smaller and tighter. While there is nothing wrong with that, the film lacked somewhat in drama -- you could see where it was headed and how it would get there.
Predictability aside, Ring The Bell is an enjoyable, family-friendly film with a heartwarming story and message. You'll want to watch it to find out why ringing the bell is reason to celebrate!
Verdict: 3 stars of 5. While the movie is enjoyable, humorous, and moving, you'll probably not cry or shout for joy. But you might sing out loud because the soundtrack is great! It includes "The Well," performed by Casting Crowns and written by Mark Hall and Matthew West, and several songs by Dream Records group Crave (including the title track, "Ring the Bell"). Another welcomed inclusion is a brief section of the band Caleb's song, "To The Ends of the World."
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