"WAYWARD: The Prodigal Son," Landon Henneman, Blake Webb, Rob Diamond, Pam Eichner, Crystal Udy, Kristen Marie Jensen, Keith Phelps, Patrick Bogdanich, Keith Hottinger, Walter Platz; not rated; 98 minutes; screened at the LDS Film Festival, shows again Saturday at the Scera Xango Grand Theatre
OREM — The family in "Wayward: The Prodigal Son" has plenty of money. They can afford to hand over half a million dollars to the uppity and ungrateful son who leaves home to lose it all.
They can also — apparently — stand the cost of paying off his gambling debt once again and lose a pretty nice car to boot.
The father is seriously ill, yet his company is able to lump along without him and still bring in the money. The mother never loses patience.
Getting the picture?
"Wayward," which lead off the 2014 LDS Film Festival, is a nicely shot movie. The actors, for the most part, do a decent job.
And if you can get past some of the obvious and oft-used plot devices, it's not hard to watch.
The film starts out at a dead run, with Tyler, played by Landon Henneman, trying to run away on the highway from his pursuers in their hot car. It looks like he's a goner when the movie flashes back to nine months earlier.
Tyler's sitting in a board meeting — bored. He and his frustrated big brother quickly get into a kerfuffle and that's enough to send Tyler to the bar, to jail and packing.
His wise and indulgent dad hands over a ton of money, and away he goes.
From there, it's the open road in a flashy new car, the gambling tables, the bed with a beautiful stranger, and the predators who immediately size him up as an easy mark.
He truly falls among thieves and robbers, just like in the scriptures.
However, a sympathetic prostitute takes pity on him and tries to send him back home after she takes a good share of his money.
She also picks him up later and takes him home to her father's ranch, where the sunshine and hard, honest work among the pigs and cows turns him into a better guy.
Crystal Udy plays Annabelle, the good girl beneath the tons of makeup — the farm-girl-turned-prostitute who also reforms.
There are some subtle humorous moments along the journey, and the story is heartwarming even when you can see what's going to happen from a mile away.
It's good that the bad guys don't actually physically harm anybody, especially Farley, played by Walter Platz, a guy who loves his child no matter what.
There are some cleverly lighted scenes, such as when the bad guys roll out of the dark like the devil himself.
The character Jerry, played by Patrick Bogdanich, is interesting and colorful. There's some good in him, somewhere.
It's just that, as an overall story, it's a bit unbelievable.
Tyler doesn't have much reason for leaving. Will, the older brother, actually commits the more awful betrayal when he tells Tyler his dad doesn't want him back.
The father, played by Rob Diamond (who also wrote and directed the film), is almost a saint. He never shows his frustration.
The timing is a little compressed, as well, in this 98-minute film. Tyler gets into major trouble quickly and his turnabout is overly simplified.
Also, be aware that this is not a movie for children. The themes are adult, and parents would have to spend a while after the movie explaining things such as gambling and prostitution to youngsters even though nothing sexual is spelled out and the gunplay is all show.
Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with more than 35 years' experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com.
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