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



Some movies are formulaic and annoying. Others are formulaic and somehow still great. Then there are those that are formulaic and pleasant. The new faith-based film Hoovey falls into that last category. You've more or less seen this story before. Everyone has. The details are slightly different, but the arc is the same. Nevertheless, it's a good arc. It has endured this long for a reason. Not getting sucked into it is difficult, even if it has been done in hundreds of theatrical movies and (seemingly) thousands of Lifetime TV movies before.

Based on a true story, this is the tale of Eric “Hoovey” Elliott (Cody Linley), a high school basketball star living in the Midwest with firefighter father Jeff (Patrick Warburton), mother Ruth (Lauren Holly), and sister Jen (Alyson Stoner). Hoovey begins having some blurry vision, so his parents take him to get glasses. Everyone realizes the problem is much more serious when he collapses during practice. It turns out that he has a brain tumor and will need risky surgery. The process proves successful, but Hoovey has to learn how to do many things over again, including walk. He is told that, due to the considerable risk of death should he sustain a head injury, he can never play sports again. This does not sit well, and he begins working to get back on the court, despite his parents' disapproval. Meanwhile, they struggle with severe financial problems created by Hoovey's medical bills.

I won't tell you whether the boy ever plays again. Do I even need to? Yes, Hoovey is one of those movies about people who overcome adversity by living fearlessly. It hits every beat you'd expect it to, never once stepping outside the formula. There are dramatic speeches, near-calamities, thrilling triumphs, and lots of hugs. Lots and lots of hugs. Director Sean McNamara (Soul Surfer) follows the predicable rhythms of the Inspirational Drama. He doesn't inject anything new into it. For that reason, the tension about what will happen to Hoovey is generally pretty minimal. Most of the things that happen in the story are foregone conclusions.

Aren't many of us suckers for this kind of story, though? There are far worse things than seeing a nice little movie about the importance of meeting adversity head-on and refusing to cower in its wake. Hoovey looks at the idea from the faith perspective. Throughout their health and financial trials, the Elliotts maintain their faith in God, always trusting in His will. It is the process by which they hold on. This is the element that will give the movie substantial appeal to its core audience. Screenwriter Howard Klausner (The Identical) largely weaves the Christianity into the story naturally (the family prays for guidance during times of trouble), only occasionally laying it on a bit thicker (three angels appear to help Jeff's truck get unstuck during a blizzard).

Many families rely on their faith to weather difficulties. Hoovey understands this and reflects it pretty well. The actors do a fine job playing a family for whom faith is just as important as food or air. Patrick Warburton is especially strong as the father who must balance worry about his son with a desire to help him make his dream of playing again come true. Through his, and everyone else's, efforts, the movie generally rides over its occasionally frustrating by-the-numbers nature to find a nice, easygoing tone.

Again, there's absolutely nothing new or original here. Hoovey executes the formula fairly well, though. Audiences looking for a fresh take on this type of story will be sorely disappointed by its utter refusal to deviate from the norm. But those in the mood for a sweet, uplifting, faith-based film that's free of any objectionable content will find it a pleasant way to spend an hour and a half.

( 1/2 out of four)

Hoovey is rated PG for thematic elements. The running time is 1 hour and 31 minutes.

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