As someone who frequently reviews big-budget spectacles like "Iron Man" and "Avatar," I feel a bit cheap criticizing a modest little indie like "The Current."
Filmed on what must charitably be called a shoestring budget, this latest in the ongoing spate of faith-based films has a lot of heart and soul - but not much else.
The story concerns Jake Larson, a Chicago teen whose parents are alarmed by urban violence and move the family to rural Minnesota, where they will oversee a campground.
There, Jake struggles with a load of chores around the camp and befriends Peter, a fellow 13-year-old who lives on an adjoining farm.
Yep, that's about all the conflict this story has for a while, though Peter and his father are still dealing with the untimely death of Peter's mother. The film thus develops a theme about processing grief, asking whether God really has a plan when bad things happen.
Since this is an overtly Christian work, there's no doubt about the answer to that question; but I wish the storyline weren't so blasted obvious and simple-minded about it.
Surely there are millions if not billions of people whose griefs and losses are not so handily patched up in a mere 85 minutes - people who, like Job, never really come to understand (at least not in this life) why they've undergone such trials.
Though "The Current" is often appealing (and I suspect it may offer genuine solace to some folks in pain), it would be much stronger if it ended earlier, omitting the last several scenes, which demonstrate the usual faith-film tendency to Spell It Out, as though audiences are too stupid to think things through, or to deal with doubt and uncertainty.
Similarly, the script features many scenes that are almost unbearably tough to swallow: the parents' decision to move without discussing it with their children; a 13-year-old explaining the ways of God to a grieving parent; and the supposedly "award-winning" all-girl choir from Sheboygan. (This last was especially unconvincing for me, having just watched "Some Like It Hot," in which Daphne and Geraldine claim to have attended the comically fictitious "Sheboygan Conservatory of Music.")
On the upside, "The Current" certainly understands the joys and hassles of male adolescence - and it's often quite funny.
But by far its greatest asset is a dandy performance from newcomer Blade Yocum as Peter.
Indeed, all the child performers here are considerably stronger than the adults, but Yocum stands out as particularly genuine and heartfelt; the film really comes to life when he's onscreen.
Between blockbuster sequels like "Captain America" and "The Amazing Spider-Man," "The Current" snuck quietly into Digiplex Destinations for a few nights after Easter and should be available on DVD shortly.
This current batch of faith-based films will conclude with a one-night showing of Focus on the Family's "Irreplaceable" on May 6.
2 stars out of 4.
The film has not been rated; it contains no objectionable content.