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Pure Country 2: The Gift is a Painful Pleasure
See more reviews by Greg Wright, Contributing Writer

Pure Country 23 starsWhen was the last time you saw Katrina Elam perform?  Have you ever?

When was the last time you saw Bronson Pinchot, Cheech Marin, and Michael McKean in a film together?

To be perfectly blunt, you're almost certain to find the latter casting stunt to be one of the worst ideas you've seen on film in a long, long time... but you're almost equally certain to wish you could see a lot more of Elam.

Pinchot, Marin, and McKean appear in Pure Country 2: The Gift as a trio of guardian angels who shepherd a powerful "gift" of singing into an abandoned and orphaned newborn.  With the bestowing of the gift come three rules for living: never lie, be fair, and never break a promise.  Young, white, big-voiced Bobbie is raised by strangely-single matron "Auntie Ella" in a gospel-singing, black, rural church.  This is where Bobbie gets her groove, and after years of church choirs, 4-H fairs, waitressing, rodeos, and thick-as-a-brick hick come-ons, Bobbie's ready to shake the dust off her heels and head to Nashville for a shot at the big time.

Packing all her gear (and troubles) into the old kit bag—and taking along a C-note from Ella for the inevitable bus fare home—Bobbie lands in the big city and quickly finds herself a job, a band, and a white-hot career.  She also finds herself in a morality play, as breaking the Three Rules are the price of success.  Angels Matthew, Pedro, and Joseph cringe in the fluffy clouds every time Bobbie compromises her principles to get ahead, and ominous portents in the weather let Ella, praying in her rocker at home, know that all is not well in Musicland.  Eventually, Bobbie gets her comeuppance just as her star bursts upon the national scene.

Elam Alone Is Reason Enough to See This
I'm not certain what the thinking was behind the angelic framing device.  It feels like something out of a misguided SNL skit, and is so cringe-worthy as to be jarringly out-of-step with the otherwise engaging narrative that surrounds a magnetic performance by Katrina Elam as Bobbie.  Just the other night, I saw the trailer for the upcoming Tim McGraw film Country Strong, with Gwyneth Paltrow and Leighton Meester as the vocal leads.  From what I saw of those few minutes of footage, I think you'd much rather see Elam perform.  She's the real deal, and though she's never acted before you'd never know it.  Elam alone is reason enough to see the film.

But let's leave aside, for a moment, all talk about whether this is a "good film" or not.  What about the film's message?  We can all use a reminder that, as we pursue our goals in this life, it matters how we play the game.  Winning isn't the only thing.  So as Bobbie lies, cheats, and breaks promises on her way to the top, we know that Divine Justice is gonna come into play.  The presence of the angels pretty much tells us that Solomon's more real-world view of things won't play out here.  No, in the simplified moral vision of Pure Country 2: The Gift, actions have very real consequences—so much so that you start feeling that Matthew, Pedro, and Joseph work for a pretty punitive God.  But the film's denouement, as Bobbie comes home and learns how to be human again, is also highly redemptive and illustrates the more merciful side of God that we see throughout the Bible.

Great Music and Heart-Warming Story Affirms Old-Fashioned Values
Warner Bros. is distributing this indie flick, directed by one-time A-lister Christopher Cain, in a limited release starting today.  You can find it in places like Dallas and Nashville, places where fans of George Strait—who starred in Cain's original Pure Country and makes a series of awkward cameo appearances in the sequel—will provide a built-in audience.  But Warner is clearly uneasy about the very uneven quality of the film, so don't expect this to expand into big-market multiplexes any time soon.

In fact, don’t expect to find too much information about this film—or Elam—anywhere.  Since the young singer's own nascent Nashville career jumped the rails a few years back, she's completely gone off the biz's radar.  What's even more strange, considering Elam's potential as a hot property, Warner barely got a website for the film up in time for today's release, and press appearances have been about nil.  As far as I can tell, my review of the film might even be the first published.  Odd.  But not surprising.

If you like great musical performances and heart-warming stories that affirm old-fashioned values, I think you'll forgive the more painful sequences of Pure Country 2: The Gift.

If you're at all cynical or demand all-around excellence from your entertainment, though... skip it.

Pure Country 2: The Gift is rated PG for some language and thematic material.  That’s about right.  I get the sense that this film is targeted at families with young children, and it's definitely appropriate for that audience.

Courtesy of a national publicist, Greg screened a promotional DVD of Pure Country 2: The Gift.

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