P&G Productions will release their new film, “Change of Plans” on Saturday, January 8, 2011 on FOX at 8 PM and 7 PM Central. As we’ve reported, P&G and Walmart have teamed together to create new family-friendly movies that tell positive stories the entire family can watch together. The first three aired on NBC. Change of Plans will air on Fox. In creating movies that meet this objective, P&G is trying to walk a tightrope between films that are so insipid that adults will squirm, and tales that a small child can get caught up in, without resorting to inappropriate language and violence. This is not an easy task, especially given other alternatives, as well as a modern tendency for every member of the family to retreat to their own corner to enjoy entertainment made especially for them. Leave it to P&G to invest heavily in this type of venture, as they did with the creation of the Soap Opera, to claim turf that is especially vital to their commercial interests. Previous films have been Secrets of the Mountain, The Jensen Project, and A Walk in My Shoes.
The other films I’ve seen in this project have failed, but we have found each one better than the last, with progressively better scripts, acting and production values. Change of Plans is another step forward in the right direction.
Change of Plans tells the story of a dynamic young couple who have a life-changing experience. Jason is a jet pilot and engineer and his wife, Sally, is an aspiring singer/musician on the verge of huge musical career. They have an action-packed life, symbolized in the credits by hot cars, an in-house recording studio, scuba gear, and vacation plans in progress. Just as the happy couple are about to get away from it all, they get a phone call with life-changing news: an old friend has died in a car crash leaving four kids behind with nowhere to go. The couple then makes a quick decision to cancel their vacation plans to take the kids in, until a suitable foster family can be found. The additional plot twist is that the four kids come from the four corners of the globe, including South America, China, Africa and North America.
Most viewers, at this point, can imagine what happens next, with the expected clash between the busy lives of Jason and Sally and the emotional needs of multicultural kids adjusting to a new life after being suddenly orphaned. The director, John Kent Harrison, does a good job with a script that packs way too many stories into a 88-minute film. Competing for attention are the emotional complexities of no fewer than eight characters, on top of a back story of why the deceased parents had collected one child from each country they visited while in the Peace Corps. While both my daughter and I were teary-eyed during the expected happy ending, it was more a programmed response than because we had enough time to truly be invested in the characters.
Contemporary viewers may feel slightly manipulated by the full representation of almost every ethnic group, as well as a nod to the military, race car driving, and country music. P&G even managed to squeeze in a dinner prayer at one point, which felt more than a little gratuitous. While you have to applaud a large corporation’s devotion to presenting a cross-section of the real America rather than a vision of 1950s America, I can safely say that I’ve never seen a more blatantly politically correct mixture of symbols. The only thing missing was a gay character, but maybe that is still a little too much inclusiveness for P&G and Walmart in 2011.
Joe Flanigan (“Stargate Atlantis”) as Jason and Brooke White (“American Idol”) as Sally are well-cast in these roles. Both have movie star looks but also have everyday folks charm. For the most part, the child actors also do well, especially Clarissa Suwoko as the six-year-old Sung Lee, who is irresistibly cute in the film.
Despite our criticisms, you can do worse for modern entertainment the whole family can watch. And certainly, this is a better option than most chick-flicks out there which only seem to emphasize dating as the major behavior to emulate. Here, the family can discuss what makes a family, how families stay together, and maybe even the sacrifices parents make of their own dreams, for the good of their kids. I am optimistic that Brian Wells, the Executive Producer of all four films in the project, learns more with each film, and that the studio will find a formula that will work for family night, if not as a movie theatre feature film.
Note to readers: P&G invited me to the set of to the set of “A Change of Plans” in late 2010. While they paid for transportation and lodging, no payment was made for this review, and my opinions are my own and not those of P&G or Walmart.
- Review: “A Walk In My Shoes” new family movie (greatdad.com)
- Brooke White, “American Idol” Alum, Makes Acting Debut In TV Movie (popcrunch.com)