Set in 1976, young Pete O’Malley (newcomer Adiel Stein) lives in a suburb with his Irish Catholic family. He is told by a nun he will go to hell if he continues his bratty ways. Scared by this comment, he decides to go on a “quest” and convert a Jewish person into a Catholic so they can get to heaven. He then meets Jewish boy Danny Jacobsen, the son of a rabbi who is suffering from Leukemia, and the two go on a “quest” to get Danny into heaven. I was rather curious to see this, due to the amount of attention this received from many. The entire movie relies on the performance of Adiel Stein, who does a pretty good job in the film. He’s charming and wide-eyed with a lot of enthusiasm and does a good job. The best aspects of this movie, though, are the character actors that make this enjoyable.
Bonnie Hunt is the sympathetic and mousey mother who displays some grit in the movie. She and Aidan Quinn have good chemistry together throughout the movie and is believable as the mother. Aidan Quinn gives an excellent performance as the workaday tough father who yells a lot at his children but is still a very loveable guy underneath. He’s a great and very interesting character and Aidan Quinn gives a charming performance. Kevin Pollak plays Rabbi Jacobsen, the father of Danny, the ailing boy who suffers from Leukemia throughout the entire movie, and he gives an incredible performance. He manages to squeeze a gritty but loveable out of this movie, letting the audience feel for his character. He helps this movie along a lot. Probably the best part of this movie is the screenplay which Pete Jones supplies well. The dialogue is great with a lot of witty and sweet monologues that help the characters well.
Pete Jones’ script make this movie very enjoyable and sweet. Though enjoyable the script forces many sub-plots that could have potentially made this movie memorable, but rarely ever follows through with them. The two boys take the “decathlon for heaven” theme, yet its never truly emphasized upon, so it seems inadequate. We have the young boy with leukemia, but his character isn’t shown much, nor is his plot truly focused on. Not to mention, Brian Dennehy, who has a small role as the reverend of the catholic church who pops out occasionally without any true reason to. Why is he here in this movie? He often looks like a lost child, drifting in and out of the movie with no real impact or direction with his character. The movie has unusual and senseless aspects that never really give us an answer, and a lot of plot holes and continuity problems. Did this movie really have to be set in the seventies?
I didn’t see any true aspect that individualized this from a modern story. None of the characters looked like they were from the seventies, and none of the scenes resembled anything from that era, except for the occasional object here and there that reminds us its in the seventies. The movie also has some continuity problems that ruin the movie. Take a look at the end where Joe and son, Patrick share a beer “for the first time”, you’ll notice a staggering continuity error. Though, the writing is adequate, the directing is pretty basic and there’s nothing really outstanding. You never truly get the feeling this guy will become a real marvel of moviemaking. Some of the scenes are shaky, poorly lit, and off-key, and sometimes, it looks like Pete doesn’t know where to stand often trailing behind the actors or bashing into them. Despite all the flaws, plot holes, and continuity screw-ups, this was an enjoyable and sweet movie with a cute story. Pete Jones may not be a director, but he can sure write.