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Grace Unplugged

2013 / 102 minutes
RATING: 7/10

This is a story about two prodigals. The first, Johnny Trey, was a one-hit wonder pop star who got into drugs and girls, before finding God, finding a good church, and repairing things with his wife.

His rise, fall, and rise again is over by the end of the opening credits and the rest of the film is about his daughter Grace, who is every bit as musically talented as her father. Grace plays with her dad in the church worship band, but likes doing things her own way, and she doesn’t have a good gauge on when and where to do so. So when she busts out a solo performance in the middle of the church worship time, her dad gives her a hard stare.

About fifteen minutes in, Johnny’s old agent, “Mossy,” comes calling. It turns out an Australia Idol contestant has won their version of the show singing Johnny’s old hit, Misunderstood, and that’s got folks interested in Johnny Trey once again. But Johnny isn’t all that interested in returning to his rock and roll life, and turns down Mossy’s offer for a tour and new album.

Grace is listening to all of this. When she gets in one more fight with her dad, she decides to send Mossy her own demo of the song, and when he likes it, Grace takes off to LA to try and make it on her own.


Parents will know where this story is going the moment Grace takes her prodigal turn but may have some concerns about how graphic Grace’s fall will be. They don’t need to be too worried. It’s all handled with a lot of care, aided by the fact that while Grace is turning her back on her dad, she isn’t as bold in her rejection of God.

When a handsome celebrity wants Grace to come back to his place, she makes her excuses not to go. And when Music executives talk about trying to make use of her sexuality, and a fellow pop star talks about how “your body is the biggest asset you have” Grace won’t go along with them either.

She does get into drinking, but it’s shown in a couple of quick montage shots, and younger kids won’t even understand that what she’s drinking is alcohol.

In other words, she’s shown to be sinking, but we don’t spend a lot of time in her sinkhole. That makes Grace Unplugged less realistic than it might have been, but more appropriate for the young teen audience it is aimed at. The only sin we do see her committing a lot is her general disrespect for her father.

Language concerns are limited to a few instances of “gosh.”


This is a better than average Christian film, with decent production values (comparably to a Hallmark), and a musical star who can actually sing. I also really appreciated how they could tread into dark territory with care.

There’s even some subtly, the filmmaker repeatedly taking the time to show rather than simply tell his story. For example, at one point dad and daughter play a song together – It is well with my soul – that symbolizes Grace hasn’t left God behind. They play just the music and don’t sing the words, but the director knows his Christian audience will be familiar with the hymn, so he is content to leave it unnamed.

I would have loved to score it higher, but one problem with any prodigal story is in making the prodigal likable and that doesn’t really happen here. It isn’t an impossible task – we are the prodigal after all – but for too much of this film Grace Trey is too bratty to really root for. They needed to make her more relatable, because the whole “got a recording contract at a major label” isn’t something the rest of us have ever experienced.

What is relatable is the whole rebellious teen versus parent who manages to say the right thing exactly the wrong way time after time. That makes this a decently entertaining film that could also foster a good conversation or two with your own teens. I’d recommend it for 12 and up.

Check out the trailer below.

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Drama, Movie Reviews

The Song

Drama / Musical 2014 / 116 minutes RATING: 9/10 The Song destroys all the expectations we have for Christian films. It has great acting, a great script, an even better soundtrack...and also infidelity, abortion, suicide, drugs, and more infidelity. It's far better than most any Christian film you've seen, but also much grittier. It is based on, but does not pretend to be, the story of King David and Solomon. The setting is Nashville, with Jed King (played by Alan Powell) an aspiring country singer who hasn't yet measured up to the status of his superstar father. But he also hasn't fallen into any of his excesses either.  When he meets Rose, the manager of a winery, Jed writes a special song for her that turns into his first major hit. From there we see him rise to spectacular heights. Like Solomon before him, he has it all. And like Solomon (and his superstar father), that's not enough – he falls to temptation, in his case involving the lead singer of his opening act. That doesn't explain how very different this film is from the typical Christian fare, so let's focus on two things that make it remarkable. The first is the outstanding pairing of story with biblical narration. All the "Solomonic texts"– Ecclesiastes, Proverbs, and the Song of Solomon – are quoted regularly and impactfully. Jed is learning some hard lessons through the film, and he shares them, warning us of the ways of the adulterous woman and the futility of having it all when it is all going to turn to dust in the end. Remarkable, too, is the music. It's another fantastic pairing, this time of story and song: the musical performances are worth the price of admission right there! While praising it as highly as I can, I will add that this was a hard film to watch the first time, since, being familiar with both David and Solomon's stories, my wife and I knew that at some point Jed's happy story was going to take a devastating, self-sabotaging turn. We actually ended up watching it in two nights, the first with all the fun romantic joking and giddiness of Jed convincing Rose to be his wife. We shut it off right before Jed was set to make his stupid devastating decisions (it wasn't hard to tell when that was going to happen). Then the next evening, we could start with that ugliness, ride it out, and then enjoy the end of the movie, where we got to see his life impacted by undeserved but gratefully received grace. CAUTIONS Even though we don't really see anything objectionable, the mature topic matter means this is not a film for children. Underscoring that point, it begins with a two-minute overview of the lowlights of David King's life. We see Jed's father singing on the Grand Ole Opry and later catching his bandmate's wife swimming naked in a lake (the water obscures her), paralleling David seeing Bathsheba. While King David kills Uriah, in the film the husband, upon learning of his friend's and wife's betrayal, commits suicide. Thankfully this is all covered in a quick montage in the opening minutes. CONCLUSION Some films are gritty for the sake of being gritty. This is gritty for the sake of being true. But it is also funny, romantic, rousing, thought-provoking, and toe-tapping for the same reason: because that's what life is like too. I don't know if I gave The Song the pitch it deserves, so I'm linking to a few other reviews so you can get a second and third opinion. Plugged In – conservative Christian review Variety – a secular take If you want to dig into the film further, here's a list of some of the biblical references throughout the film. You can check out the unique trailer below, a more conventional one here, and a great musical clip here. You can rent the film online at Amazon and other online streaming services. ...