For a year now, WalMart, in partnership with Procter & Gamble, has been producing their own brand of family films, airing them on broadcast TV as part of FAMILY MOVIE NIGHT and selling the DVDs exclusively at their stores. The latest of these efforts is TRUTH BE TOLD, and, to tell the truth, it's a pretty decent little film.
In the screwball comedy tradition of the 1930s, single marriage counselor Annie Morgan meets cute with her ex-college tutor (and now widower) Mark Crane—and it turns out both are trying to land deals with the same eccentric rancher tycoon, Alexander Bishop.
When it becomes apparent that Bishop has mistaken Annie and Mark for husband and wife, and invites them to spend a get-to-know-you-and-your-work-better weekend at his ranch, the sparking couple—with Mark's two teenagers in tow—decide to accept the invitation under a false pretext… with the proviso, of course, that they'll reveal the truth as soon as they get to the ranch. They don't, naturally, and they get deeper and deeper into the lie with less and less chance of a graceful exit.
No Spoilers Here
Because this is a formula film, there's no question at all about whether Mark and Annie will get together—so there's absolutely no spoiler on that front. In films like this, the fun comes from seeing how they get there—and Candace Cameron Bure and David James Elliot make getting there with Annie and Mark awfully appealing. Under the steady and even inspired direction of TV veteran actor Jonathan Frakes, Cameron Bure and Elliot generate the best chemistry of this sort that I've seen in a long time.
I hate to say this, because it makes me sound like an idiot, but Cameron Bure makes me think of a live-action Archie comic book gal… and I do mean that in the best of ways. The closest thing I've seen to Meg Ryan in her all-American-girl prime, Cameron Bure is an incredible casting choice for a "Family Movie Night," and Elliot balances her nicely by not coming off as the weak or insipid dad who's all too common in movies and TV these days. This combo is strong in its own right, and should also hit the nail on the head when it comes to the film's target market.
The Adults Are the Real Stars
As a big bonus, veteran character actor Ronny Cox is a delight as Bishop. He's long been one of my favorites, and an Arizona ranch really seems to put him in his element. Frakes also does a good job of showing off the Arizona countryside as we follow Mark and Annie (and the kids) around Bishop’s ranch.
When the film starts to follow the teen subplot, Frakes doesn't fare as well. The casting is decent enough, and the performances are solid, but the young stars just don't generate the kind of giddy excitement that Cox, Cameron Bure, and Elliot do. The energy of the film just falls off in these sequences.
A Simple Lesson – From Walmart!
The movie's tag line is, "A lie brought them together. Will the truth pull them apart?" And it's not really accurate. Attraction brought Mark and Annie together, and ambition seduced them into a lie. But the intent of that tag line is still true: truth is always a better option than a lie, and in true screwball fashion, a simple moral lesson is here delivered with a couple spoonfuls of very tasty sugar.
Not bad for WalMart!
Catch TRUTH BE TOLD on Saturday night, April 16, on Fox.
TRUTH BE TOLD is on TV, so it's not carrying an MPAA rating; but I'd call this G all the way… though I'm sure some political correctness somewhere would slap a PG on it for something.
Courtesy of a national publicist, Greg screened a promotional DVD of TRUTH BE TOLD.