The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Generational Sins

Generational Sins gained some media attention when it was acquired for distribution earlier this year. That's because it's the first faith-based film to feature profanity, including a use of the F word. You'll also hear curse words beginning with the letters S and B, as well as one character calling another a crude euphemism for male genitalia. That hard-edged quality is certainly notable. It's also the only notable thing about this frustratingly by-the-numbers picture.

Daniel MacPherson plays Drew Caldwell, a hard-drinking guy with an anger management problem. He reluctantly agrees to fulfill his dying mother's final wish: to take his younger brother Will (Dax Spanogle) back to the small Pennsylvania town where they were born so that he can meet the biological father he doesn't really know. Drew remembers their father all too well, specifically the times when he got drunk and became physically abusive.

Generational Sins is a great Of Course Movie. That's a term for any film that makes you think “of course” with every new plot twist, because you've seen those twists a million times before. Drew and Will have a tense road trip because they don't get along. (Of course.) Once back in Pennsylvania, Drew rekindles a relationship with an old flame he hasn't seen in years. (Of course.) There's a moment when he realizes that he's potentially on the same path as his old man. (Of course.) Through their shared journey, the brothers find healing and new respect for each other. (Of course.)

Lots of movies are packed with cliches, though. Lack of originality is crippling, but it need not be fatal. In this case, a one-note tone makes the cliches more noticeable, while also creating an overall sense of ponderousness. Every single scene -- even those where the characters are doing mundane things -- is played as if what's taking place is a dire, life-or-death situation. The whole tone is heavy-handed to a fault, with each line of dialogue delivered in melodramatic fashion. An irritating musical score intrudes constantly, reminding us that what we're watching is Very, Very Serious. Director/co-writer Spencer T. Folman desperately wants Generational Sins to be meaningful. The incessantly histrionic approach actually borders on becoming comic at times.

As with many faith-based films, there is a big “born again” moment in the story, where someone receives a flashing neon sign from God and instantaneously exorcises all their demons. That's fine. It's par for the course in the genre. But while the notion of someone recommitting to the ideals of faith is wonderful, it doesn't really ring true here. What Generational Sins understands about the cycle of abuse and how people struggle to heal from intense trauma is so limited that its attempts to address the topic prove hopelessly shallow.

Furthermore, flashbacks to the abuse Drew suffered at his father's hands are filmed in a very stylistic manner that makes them look – well, not exactly pretty, but glossy and cinematic. That approach is uncomfortable given the horror of child abuse. In these moments, you can sense Folman concerning himself more with making a good-looking film than in conveying the gravity of his subject matter.

Generational Sins does have fairly good production values for a low-budget picture, and MacPherson gives a decent performance considering the monotony of the material he has to work with. Otherwise, this is a dreary, overly self-serious effort, with little to distinguish it outside of some swearing. Faith-based movies have never been this edgy, but edginess alone doesn't get you very far.

( out of four)

Generational Sins is rated PG-13 for mature thematic material involving violence and alcohol abuse, and for some language and suggestive content. The running time is 1 hour and 29 minutes.

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