Echoes of Innocence

Philip Anschutz wants to rule the world. What does this have to do with Echoes of Innocence? According to many, digital films are the way of the future. As of this point, aside from art houses and the occasional movie, the only company to try to push digital films is AMC, which screened the forgettable Evergreen and The Final Cut. Anschutz owns Regal Cinemas. He also owns (well, in a roundabout way) Walden Media, a production company that strives to make family friendly films. Why? Well, he is a practicing Christian, and there is certainly a dearth of family-friendly, or Christian films in today's marketplace. Which brings things back to Echoes of Innocence. This is Regal's first attempt at a showcasing a digital film, and it happens to be a Christian film (but not a Walden Media film).

Christian films are still relatively new, and in the same development stage as Christian rock was in the 1980s. In other words, for the most part, it sucks. The focus is completely on the message, much to the detriment of the quality of music. As time passed, Christian music got better. Artists found a way to make good music that showcased their values. As a result, Christian music takes a decent (but small) chunk of the market nowadays. Christian films have yet to reach this stage (although recent Mormon films have been more promising). They are still stuck in a "message first" phase. The acting tends to be hokey, and the story far too apparent. Plot is usually nonexistent, and the film is basically some sort of religious lesson.

Echoes of Innocence is a good example. While it is not overtly Christian, the themes and characters are clearly so. Sarah Jenkins (Sara Simmonds, Sexless) prays, sometimes goes to Bible Study, and is fervently abstinent. So much so that in junior high she picked up the moniker "Virg," because she gave a speech on Joan of Arc. Echoes of Innocence is a film about the virtues of innocence, told a bit too obviously and heavy-handedly. In extended flashbacks, the audience learns that Sarah made a vow with a young friend to remain chaste until she turned eighteen, when they would marry. He had to leave quickly, but promised to return. Now in high school, Jenkins is slightly Goth-ed out, and still waiting patiently for her childhood love to return. She also has visions of the near future that she believes are from God, but she doesn't tell anybody this.

Her virginity is such the talk of the school that Alec (Matt Vodvarka, EvenHand) makes it his mission to deflower her. Basically, writer/director N. Todd Simms has him lurk in the shadows and glare at Jenkins. There are even a few shots where he leers at her cast in a red light, like some sort of demon. It's unintentionally funny. That's okay, because there's a hunky newcomer in town. Dave (Jake McDorman) is really interested in Jenkins. Jenkins is initially reluctant to be friends with him, but once she realizes that his intentions are pure, she befriends him. But as she knows him better, she finds herself falling in love with him, which puts her at odds with her childhood promise. Jenkins is a woman of her word, and it tears her up inside that she may break her promise to a boy that many believe will never show up. Simmonds is okay, but her character's conviction does not come through in her performance.

Aside from this, there really is no point to Echoes of Innocence. Everybody knows what is going between Dave and Jenkins, the only surprise is that it takes so long for events to play out. That, coupled with the fact that the characters are not very interesting makes the movie a chore to sit through. Worse, Vodvarka and McDorman are not very good actors. The worst actor is the person who plays Jenkins' mother (sorry, wasn't able to find the credit). She was promiscuous as a child. Now as an adult, her karmic punishment is to live in a trailer, lose the love of her daughter, and require medication just to get by. Not very subtle. The push for abstinence isn't either, but Simms never gives any particular reason as to why, aside from the fact that Jenkins made a promise. So, like the legion of other Christian films that make their way into theaters every once in a while, Echoes of Innocence has the best of intentions, but spoils most aspects of it.

Mongoose Rates It: Pretty Bad.
1 hour, 57 minutes, Rated PG-13 for sexual content, violent and thematic issues.

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