NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Friday, April 2nd.
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Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I’m Myrna Brown.
Coming next on The World and Everything in It: a new Christian movie sure to get the whole family singing. Here’s reviewer Megan Basham.
CLIP: Looking for a reason roaming through the night to find my place in this world, my place in this world…
It will be easy for cooler-than-thou types to sneer at A Week Away, a new jukebox musical that puts a spiritual spin on the classic summer camp movie. But that will only be because they’ve forgotten the freedom the middle school years offer to fully embrace innocent entertainment.
CLIP: Well, today’s your lucky day. Good news, this is Kristin. She’s one of our foster parents, and her son.
The story starts with troubled teenager Will Hawkins, Kevin Quinn from Bunk’d.
CLIP: Will, you are going to summer camp?
He’s an orphan in need of community and comfort. Enter a foster family willing to take him in and send him off for a week of fun on the lake with their own teenage son.
CLIP: I’m George. Um, hi. Nice to meet you. You too.
The PG film debuted March 27th on Netflix. And it clearly owes something of its existence to Disney’s High School Musical franchise. But this is one time the faith-based facsimile outdoes the secular original.
CLIP: Started out the morning in the usual way…
As a guitar-playing delinquent and his good-girl love interest, Quinn and Bailee Madison from Bridge to Terabithia offer moderately better singing and much better acting than Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens in their Mouse House heyday. And even adults will chuckle at David Koechner, best known for Anchorman and The Office, and 30 Rock’s Sherri Shepherd in their roles as camp directors.
CLIP: Look, here’s Will Hawkins’ file. Oh right. Social services put everything in there. What’s this? Is this real? He tried to sell his high school on craigslist? Uh huh, that boy got three offers. Okay, so is this kid something I got to be worried about? I seem to remember a certain bad boy back in the day. Will will be fine.
But, of course, one of the most important elements in any musical is the songs. And in that category, it’s hard to argue that A Week Away doesn’t have it all over the Disney and Nickelodeon competition.
CLIP:Come on let’s go, I’m diving in, I’m going deep, in over my head I want to be…
Hits from Steven Curtis Chapman, For King and Country, Amy Grant, and Michael W. Smith coexist alongside new tunes from Fixer Upper’s favorite house band, Johnnyswim. I personally would have loved to see a couple head-banging numbers in the style of Petra, but still I dare believers who came of age in the 80s and 90s to resist singing along.
CLIP: So sink or swim, I’m diving in. I’m diving in, I’m going deep, in over my head I want to be. Caught in the rush lost in the flow…
In fact, if there’s any gripe to be had with A Week Away, it’s that the production feels a little too brief. Just when we start to get a handle on the central conflict of the story—whether our main character will let the Christian teens get to know the real him—the problem is resolved with a kiss and kickin’ talent show performance.
CLIP: There’s nothing better…
It’s a shame because, with a bit more time and development, the movie could have offered its target tween and young-teen audience something deeper.
CLIP: For I know the plans I have in store for you declares the Lord…
Still, when one character references Jeremiah 29:11—for I know the plans I have for you—she does so not from a place of prosperity, but of loss and suffering.
CLIP: Plans for giving you a hope and a future…
It’s an opportunity to remind kids that sometimes trusting God’s plans means trusting the pain He allows in our lives for our good.
CLIP: I just want to say I’m glad you’re here, Will. That’s it. That’s why I called you out here. Glad you’re here. Well, thanks. Hey, by the way, what’s with the name Aweegaway? Yeah, no no, it’s Aweegaway. You guys are taking a week away from your lives to hang out with us. Oh, yeah, that makes more sense. And bonus, every once in a while, somebody finds out they’re a week away from an experience that changed everything for them. That’s my favorite part.
You can probably guess how Will’s story plays out from here. But light as it may be, A Week Away is still a sweet confection. And it’s the perfect new film for families looking for something fun to watch this weekend. It will provide a wide open door to lend their own voices to great worship songs on Easter Sunday.
CLIP: Our God is an awesome God, he reigns from Heaven above. With wisdom, power and love, our God is an awesome God.
I’m Megan Basham.