Fox // 2004 // 88 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Dennis Prince (Retired) // May 2nd, 2005
Button up your bootstraps, tie on your bonnet, and throw your cabin door open wide for this wholesome tale from the heart of America's 18th-century homeland.
Ten years after Marty (Katherine Heigl, Roswell) and Clark Claridge (Dale Midkiff, Pet Sematary), she a widow and he a widower, unwittingly fell in love in Love Comes Softly, we find them once again challenged with life's unexpected events and turning to their faith to see them through in Love's Enduring Promise.
Marty and Clark have settled into their married life together, busily tilling the land and tending to their two youngest children. Eldest Missy (January Jones, Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights) is about 18 years old now and has taken the role of local schoolmarm. By chance, she meets up with a wealthy railroad magnate, Grant (Mackenzie Astin, The Facts of Life) and is immediately swept off her feet by his charm and forthcoming style. She breaks a lunch date with him, though, after Clark is seriously injured in a woodcutting mishap and brought back to the family homestead with the help of a mysterious stranger (Logan Bartholomew). As Clark's injury leaves him near lame and in danger of severe complications, he is unable to tend to the family's crops. Without new crops, the family will not be able to sustain itself; therefore, Missy puts aside all thoughts of courting and teaching to tend to the fields herself. Struggling to helm the plow and horses, Missy turns her heart to the Heavens for assistance, not just for herself but for the ailing Clark, too.
While it might seem this could be just another drippy and hackneyed heart-of-the-West melodrama, this made-for-TV movie is actually quite engaging, mostly because of its wholesome approach. Completely cleansed of language, adult situations, or intense action sequences, Love's Enduring Promise is refreshingly grounded in its strong moral and spiritual convictions. Adapted from Janette Oke's novel of the same name (she's written a complete Christian series revolving around the life and times of the Claridge family), this film has an unusual knack for drawing you in thanks to its simplicity, straightforward manner, and compelling character conflicts.
The picture succeeds largely thanks to the deft and deliberate direction of Michael Landon, Jr. (he directed Love Comes Softly, as well). It is as economical as the era it portrays with nary a scene wasted nor needlessly inserted. He excels, though, at drawing some truly captivating performances from the very believable actors on hand. Dale Midkiff provides the moral and philosophical foundation in his breathy role, while Logan Bartholomew delivers the heart-tugging angst of a young man running from his past. January Jones is good but is sometimes noticeably stiff and rehearsed in her performance, which largely dominates the narrative. She's still quite engaging and capable, but I frequently caught her in the act of "acting." Mackenzie Astin is very charming and erudite as the railroad magnate, and it's nice to see he's actually developed some bona fide dramatic skills since his fledgling days as the annoying Andy from 1979's The Facts of Life. A special note of accomplishment also goes out to K'Sun Ray as Aaron; this youngster really can act.
As this review was based on a pre-release screener, I can't provide an accurate assessment of the technical prowess of the commercial DVD coming from Fox. It appears to be presented in a matted widescreen format at roughly 1.78:1 with a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio track.
All in all, I found Love's Enduring Promise to be a highly entertaining film to a degree I hadn't expected. It isn't a drippy romance at all, as the title might lead you to believe, but is a solid work that can safely and sensibly entertain the entire family. Recommended.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated