About the Movie (from the Hallmark Channel website):
"Clark Davis’ (Wes Brown) adventurous dreams of seeing the world are put into jeopardy after he and a friend start a fight which damages a local cafe. Through a plea deal with the Sheriff (Jere Burns) and café owner Millie (Nancy McKeon), Clark works off his sentence as a farmhand for the Barlow sisters, Ellen (Julie Mond) and Cassie (Abigail Mavity).
Older sister Ellen doesn’t understand Cassie’s friendly nature with Clark; she agreed to the Sheriff’s offer only because the farm has become too much to maintain alone. Clark is slowing winning Ellen over, but suddenly suffers a traumatic head injury in a fall. After Ellen nurses him back to health, her former fiancé returns to win her back. Will Clark travel on or stay behind where love begins?"
The original Love Comes Softly was powerful - so much so that 7 sequels have been made (8 movies loosely based on the 8 books in the series), and now 2 prequels, as well. The first prequel, Love Begins, aired last night (Saturday, September 17th) on Hallmark Channel. (The second prequel, Love's Everlasting Courage, airs in 2 weeks on October 1st.)
The emotion and inspiration found in Love Comes Softly fueled the movies that came after it, but to be honest, I think the series is about out of steam. The first four movies directed by Michael Landon Jr. remain my favorite, although Love's Unfolding Dream has its own charm, too. But there seems to have been too much of a reliance on the faithful audience won over in those beginning movies and the overall reputation of the series. The movie quality of Love Begins is sorely lacking. A sweet romance, yes. A well-made and engaging movie - not quite.
There's room for a prequel or two before Love Comes Softly, in the sense that Clark definitely had a story before he met Marty. But then again, lots of characters from all sorts of movies have a back story - anyone who has made it to their adult years has a past. So there has to be a compelling reason to bring in a prequel to the popular original movie. And Love Begins didn't make a strong enough case for its existence to satisfy me.
When watching Love Begins, there's the sense that it's a modern movie parading as an historical. Not in the basis of the movie or the plot-line, but rather in the acting and the set/costumes. Perhaps the budget didn't allow for a more realistic feel, which is a bit disappointing.
Yet there remains the sweetness. Some cute moments offer some smiles, and the corny moments certainly offer a giggle or laugh (and some humorous commentary among friends). I can't help but wonder if some of the movie was cut off on T.V. due to the length of the commercials, though, because some parts were rather abrupt and/or not well-developed, including the quick reappearance of another love interest.
So what's the prognosis? Well, if you're a die-hard fan who has all 8 movies in the series (yes, I fit into this category), then it certainly can't hurt to watch the prequels if you have the time! Love Begins is not overly moving, but it's a sweet diversion on a Saturday night. (As an aside, though, I worry about how they're going to pull off the supposedly serious plot for Love's Everlasting Courage...)
If you haven't yet seen any of the movies, I might skip this one. Or if you do watch both of the prequels first, please don't miss out on the original Love Comes Softly, as well! I know these movies aren't for everyone, but if you enjoy inspiring prairie-style romances, then I especially recommend the first few or so of the Love Comes Softly series. Overall, I've been blessed by these clean, gentle movies, some of which I have re-visited in the past and fallen in love anew each time (particularly Love Comes Softly, Love's Enduring Promise, Love's Long Journey, and Love's Abiding Joy).
Did anyone else see the movie last night? I'd love to hear your thoughts!