The Long Shot (Georg Stanford Brown, 2004)
I don’t remember what it was the originally caused me to have such high hopes for this movie—it languished on my (admittedly massive; I try to keep it under 400 titles) Netflix Instant Streaming queue for well over a year before I actually got around to watching it—but when I dialed it up tonight, the first thing I noticed was Paul le Mat’s name, and the second was that the very first shot in the film was overlaid with the words “Hallmark Presents.” I knew at that point that any hopes I had were going to be dashed to the ground. Is it always the case that Hallmark Channel movies are such trite, predictable shit as the ones I’ve been exposed to? Because this is my seventh or eighth (my wife’s grandmother always has the Hallmark Channel on when we’re over for holiday dinners), and, well, they’re about as fresh and original as Dame Barbara Cartland romance novels.
Plot: Annie Garrett (Saw V‘s Julie Benz), her husband Ross (The Net‘s John Livingston), and daughter Taylor (Gage Golightly, of the recent Teen Wolf TV series…my, how she’s grown up!) move from Denver, Annie’s childhood home, to California to seek their fortune. The farm where Ross works goes under, and he exits stage left, leaving his family in the lurch. Annie, desperate for money and a place to board her horse Tolo, ends up living, and then working, at a farm owned by gruff-but-with-a-heart-of-gold owner Mary Lou O’Brian (The Goodbye Girl‘s Marsha Mason, slumming it before what would seem to have been a semi-retirement in 2005) and soft-hearted assistant Guido (Le Mat, who I just saw in Grave Secrets and was about equally fond of here). This being a Hallmark Channel movie, you can be guaranteed that things are not going to stop there, though getting into the specifics of most of the problems Annie and Tolo encounter on their road to the local dressage finals (and I’ll tell you, it’s a loooooooooooong way from Devon) would be spoiler territory.
Not that it’s not painfully predictable in the sense that you know there are roadblocks (the main one, which turns this from a simple horse story into OMGHALLMARKINSPIRATIONALMOVIE, is cleverly concealed by changing the breed of the horse—this is, it turns out, based in part on a true story; the real-life cognate of Annie Garrett has posted about her experiences as a consultant on the film at IMDB), and I can’t begin to imagine it would be a spoiler alert to say that Annie, Tolo, and Taylor soldier on through (I’m reminded of a line from a much better film I watched today, The Adventures of Tintin: “You hit a wall, you push through it.”) and everything turns out all right in the end. The problem is, the folks who write Hallmark and Lifetime and (fill in the basic cable channel) Original Movies never seem to realize that it’s possible for everything to turn out all right and do so in a different way than the viewer is expecting. This was screenwriter David Alexander’s first time working with Hallmark, though he had previously penned oh-so-inspirational TV movies like this for CBS; their partnership has continued to this day. Do I need to watch any of David Alexander’s other movies to know they’re going to be just as plodding and predictable as this one? No, I don’t. *
Part 1 of the full film courtesy Youtube (the other parts are linked).