Airdate: 9-11 p.m. Saturday (Hallmark)
If there was a category for most straightforward film of the year, "Generation Gap" would be the heavy favorite. This story of an angry young man who learns self-control and responsibility from his crusty but loving grandfather moves right along with almost no surprises or detours from start to finish. It's as if director Bill Norton is betting you will become so fond of the characters that you will dismiss, or at least defer, doubts about the story.
There is a sweet sentimentality going for this film, as well as a tedious level of predictability working against it. Quite naturally, we cheer for this fragile grandfather-grandson connection and what it represents--the transmission of wisdom from one generation to the next.
At the same time, anyone who's ever dealt with a sullen, defiant teen knows that behavior modification on the scale depicted here can't possibly occur as smoothly or as quickly as writers Sean King and Raymond Starmann would have us believe.
There's also a subtext that might normally be annoying but in this election year becomes downright condescending. This is the premise that when a good kid goes bad, the only hope is to send him to a small town. That's the only place to find good old-fashioned American values and goodhearted people. The controversial urban-is-evil theme, implicit in the movie, has been frequently voiced by Sarah Palin from the day she became the GOP vice-presidential candidate. It's as if grandpa couldn't be nearly as good or effective if he lived in an apartment near downtown.
Only a spoonful of Edward Asner could make this medicine go down. Asner plays "The Colonel," the widowed grandfather of Dylan Statlan (Alex Black), with such force and conviction that he transforms the movie from an overly idealized Norman Rockwell painting to a flesh-and-blood drama. Still in great form, Asner musters enough tough love to sell the story, which is no mean feat.
Norton coaxes a competent performance from Black and reaps the benefit of a cast that includes such sturdy performers as Rue McClanahan, Ralph Waite and Hal Williams.
LG Films Production in association with Larry levinson Productions
Executive producer: Larry Levinson;
Co-executive producers: Randy Pope, Kevin Bocarde, Michael Moran;
Producers: Kyle Clark, Stephen Niver;
Director: Bill Norton;
Writers: Sean King, Raymond Starmann;
Director of photography: Dave Peterson;
Production designer: Carlos Lima;
Editor: Andrew Vona;
Music: Roger Bellon;
Set decorator: Rebecca Martinez;
Casting: Penny Perry, Amy Reece;
Cast: Edward Asner, Alex Black, Rue McClanahan, Ralph Waite, Hal Williams, Jack Conley, Danielle Savre, Charlie McDermott, Catherine Mary Stewart