Directed by: Andrew Erwin, Jon Erwin
Starring: Rachel Hendrix, Jason Burkey, John Schneider, Jasmine Guy, Jennifer Price, Shari Wiedmann
What we have here is the latest faith-based opus to make it to mainstream release. As is usual with these things, October Baby is aimed strictly and directly at the folks who already buy into what it’s selling. This one has a pro-life slant, and a tenuous connection to the faith-based film factory known as the Sherwood Baptist Church, in that co-director Jon Erwin served as second-unit director on the church’s movie from last year, Courageous. He and brother Andrew, however, also have a history of direct-to-video offerings, and these have somehow never crossed my path. The IMDb is littered with “reviews” about how great October Baby is, all from people who have otherwise never posted anything there before.
Following this review, I suspect I will be on the receiving end of at least one e-mail from someone who is going to pray for me. Now, if they can explain to me why “if you enjoyed this title,” the IMDb suggests you might also like Away We Go, Gone with the Wind, Juno, Click and, more mystifying yet, Joy Ride, I’d be happy to hear from them. I’m honestly a little perplexed why the distributor is soliciting critics’ responses—this is unlikely to end well.
The story is all about Hannah (Rachel Hendrix), who, after she collapses while doing a play, finds out that she’s adopted and was born prematurely as the result of a botched abortion. While I can see how this might have some connection to her physical health, I’m less sold on the film’s notion that the trauma of this has impacted her mental health, but I’m willing to go with it. Naturally, this sends her on a search for her birth mother and a large serving of family drama—mostly involving her fighting with her father (John Schneider, of all people). So, of course, she teams up with her not-really-boyfriend Jason (Jason Burkey) on some spring-vacation excursion that turns into a hunt for her birth mother. There’s a good deal of low-grade comedy here—a lot of it centered on saving one’s self for marriage.
What follows is no more surprising than you might expect—certainly no more so that I expected—and every bit as melodramatic. Leads Hendrix and Burkey are adequate, I suppose. At least, they’re pretty good at looking sincere. But the acting honors here definitely go to Jasmine Guy, who manages to make her character—the nurse who delivered Hannah and who knows the truth—actually believable, likable and even moving. I have to give her and the movie credit in this regard, because this is the first time I’ve had an emotional response (at least the intended one) to any of these movies. That the film later insists on having Guy, Schneider and Jennifer Price (as Hannah’s adoptive mother) play themselves 18 years earlier is another—and far more ludicrous—matter.
I’ll also concede that the direction—at least in the early sections of the film at the play—is considerably more visually creative than I’m used to seeing in faith-based movies. Later on, the direction tends to degenerate into a style that can only be called “goopy greeting card basic,” but it’s obvious that Jon Erwin (who also served as cinematographer) has a grasp of how to shoot a movie, even though he has a tendency towards cliches. That the whole thing is absolutely flooded in undistinguished Christian pop tunes, and it has one of those scores that primarily leans on “emotive” chords (Tyler Perry is big on these). In the end, it’s strictly for its target audience, who tend to be very uncritical where these movies are concerned. Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material.