Yes, you read it right. After his failure to win the Republican primary for the last election, Rick Santorum is trying his hand at something different: film production. As of last month, he is the new CEO for Echolight Studios, a faith-based family film company.
In a press release, Santorum spoke about the need for high quality, family-friendly entertainment that would provide an alternative to mainstream Hollywood without being corny or overtly preachy. Some have pointed out that there’s already a market for nice family movies that aren’t explicitly Christian (think of Walden Media or the stereotypical “Hallmark movie”), so perhaps what Santorum is describing isn’t so very new after all. However, we could definitely use more entertaining, substantial, un-preachy family fare.
Unfortunately, Echolight’s previous lineup of straight to DVD releases looks like a mixed bag on all counts. The quality ranges from quite good (biopic about Josh McDowell—warning, intense content) to pretty good (also based on a true story about a murdered missionary family—more intense content) to… well, stuff like this. Or this. (Yep, they use the “angel in disguise” motif twice.) Then there’s the one with a female pastor for its main character. Ehhhh…
However, the trailer for the company’s upcoming theatrical debut, a western drama entitled The Redemption of Henry Myers, looks promising. A widowed woman and her children nurse a mysterious stranger back to life after discovering him with a bullet in his back. This was received during a bank heist gone badly wrong. Inevitably, the man’s past catches up with him, and we see glimpses of some men who are definitely up to no good searching for him. The trailer leaves it somewhat ambiguous as to whether or not Henry, the main character, will come out of the film dead or alive. (I secretly hope he dies, but that’s just my twisted love of unhappy endings coming through.) Some elements of the story reminded me of the superb Harrison Ford vehicle Witness, which, as critics have pointed out, always had a western feel despite the modern cop background. There’s a hint of High Noon in there as well. While it’s unreasonable to expect something of that caliber from this studio, it still looks like an exciting, well-acted story that I would actually be willing to watch all the way through. I notice that Erin Bethea, the female lead from Fireproof, plays the female lead here as well. When my dad and I saw Fireproof in theaters, he remarked that she would get more offers after that film, and he was right.
What do you think of Santorum’s new venture? Is EchoLight really just another Christian film company who’s making cheesy movies under the illusion that they’re vying with mainstream Hollywood caliber material, or might they be on their way to something better?