A guy named Produce.

If you deeply follow How About Notflix you may be scratching your head at this review. Why, oh why, would I be going all the way back to 2014 to talk about a Christian movie rated highly by the Dove foundation? Why here? Why now? To answer that question, I received Where Hope Grows as part of a box of DVDs from a business associate who knows I write about movies, and after deliberation I decided to talk about as many as I think are relevant here. But I am specifically writing about Where Hope Grows now, here, on this day, because I have another review coming and I need this to set up as a bit of ass covering for that review. You’ll understand in about a week.

Since these films tend to be very cookie cutter, I don’t really consider anything to be a spoiler. If you really want to find out what happens for yourself, watch the film now.

Where Hope Grows is a 2014 film directed by Chris Dowling who, shockingly, does mostly Christian drama movies. Kristoffer Polaha plays Calvin Campbell, a man who retired from baseball and is figuring out what to do with his life. On a chance encounter at the grocery store, he meets Produce played by David DeSanctis and yes, Produce is his real name. I honestly thought it would be a nickname and we’d eventually learn his real name, but they named the kid Produce. Jesus Christ. Produce has Down’s Syndrome, as does Desanctis, and over the course of the film the two form an unlikely friendship between a grocery store worker and a guy who drinks a lot and Dowling gets the inspiration to learn that life isn’t over after all.

I will say this film shocked me, because you present me with a director who names the character with Down’s Syndrome “Produce” and it gives a little edge of being that Pureflix style of spiteful Christian flicks. Where Hope Grows couldn’t be further from that. In fact it’s barely a Dove Foundation style film. I expected Calvin Campbell to be that stereotype protagonist who used to love the Jebus and then something happened in life like his wife died, and now he’s a bitter atheist. That never happens. Nobody tells him that the cure to all his problems is through prayer in a church, there’s no comically exaggerated villain who walks around with black leather chaps and a “I love hating Jesus” tattoo on his dick, we never hear characters wax poetic about how persecuted upper class white Christians are in America, and the bad guys in the film aren’t portrayed as spiteful anti-theist homos. There’s also no digs at other religions. Harold Cronk would hate this film, the miserable talentless prick.

In fact if I didn’t see the Dove Foundation rating, I’d never know this was a Christian flick. There is the plot point about Produce giving the bible to a character in the hospital and Campbell deciding to start going to church. But he does it initially because there’s a lady he would rather like to bang. And then he realizes it’s a pretty good time, because his friends are there and it’s a black church and the energy there is positive and hopeful, like Jesus’ espresso machine. Not a commentary on skin color. As a Christian movie, Where Hope Grows is what other Christian movies should strive to be; a film that portrays Christianity in a positive light without being spiteful or stupid like God’s Not Dead. Campbell doesn’t turn his life around because he found Jesus or because Produce showed him the bible and he spent a week really digging into it, he turns his life around and becomes more spiritual as a result of his more optimistic outlook on life.

You know who else is here? William Zabka. Yeah, you bet your ass the next time Zabka’s in my neck of the woods I’m going to get this copy signed. Zabka plays Milton Malcolm, a name so dumb it actually makes Produce sound normal by comparison. Zabka’s job is to be the ghost of Christmas future, showing Campbell what life will be like if he doesn’t turn things around. And again this is done without portraying Milton Malcolm as a walking anti-theist stereotype. He’s a drunk asshole and his religion or lack thereof has nothing to do with it. The same goes for Michael Grant who plays Colt Beam, another stupid name. Colt is your typical high school bully who Produce eventually stands up to, but he never bullies Produce because of his religion or for the fact that he has Down’s Syndrome.

McKaley Miller plays Calvin’s daughter Katie, a typical teenage girl who gets into bad relationships because dad’s never around to be dad. She eventually is into the church thing and it’s similar to Calvin in that it’s a happy place with friendly people, and how come we never go to church. Again, I can’t express how not Christian propaganda this film is.

As a comparison, I’ll go back to Assassin 33 A.D., a film so far up its own ass in terms of hateful propaganda that with no self-awareness it presents the idea that without Christianity humanity “never learns compassion” and becomes a nuclear hellscape. It’s a film where a Jewish man learns to love Jesus to stop a Muslim played by a Mexican going back to the past and committing a time jihad to kill Jesus who he hates with such spectacular enthusiasm you’d think Jesus personally ran over his dog.

Would I watch it again? No. But I have nothing bad to say about Where Hope Grows. If you’re into these feel good religious films, it’ll be right up your alley.

Rating: B+