One wouldn’t necessarily expect a “More cowbell” joke in a Christian-themed movie.
That’s just one of the surprises in “Breakthrough,” based on the true story of a teen whose life floated in the balance after he fell through wintry ice in a pond in St. Charles, Mo. (St. Louis is the closest big city.)
“Breakthrough” portrays a realistic family, not a sanitized family. The family bickers. The son is surly to his mother. The boy is disrespectful of authority at the Christian middle school he attends and on the school basketball team on which he’s a standout player.
The “More cowbell” dialogue quip in “Breakthrough” refers to an April 8, 2000, “Saturday NIght Live” comedy sketch in which Christopher Walken played a record producer who demanded that the sound of a cowbell played by Will Ferrell be made louder in the mix durng a recording studio session.
In “Breakthrough,” Pastor Jason Noble (Topher Grace) invokes the line “More cowbell” to explain the appeal of contemporary Christian rock music in attracting young parishioners.
The title “Breakthrough” refers not only to the icy pond accident, but the profound spiritual breakthrough experienced by the teen boy, his mother, family, high school friends and teachers, hospital staff, first-responders and town residents.
If the movie review would award tissues, rather than popcorn boxes, “Breakthrough” would be rated five tissues. While the movie is sentimental, it’s not saccharine. Even so, “Breakthrough” will tug at your heartstrings.
The screenplay by Grant Nieporte (screen story, “Seven Pounds,” 2008), based on the book by Joyce Smith, creates many moments of conflict between John Smith (Marcel Ruiz) and his classmates, his parents, especially his mother, Joyce Smith (Chrissy Metz), and his teacher and coach. The mother is also conflicted. She argues with the pastor, her husband, Brian (Josh Lucas), and the doctor (Dennis Haysbert). She yells at nearly everyone within earshot.
Director Roxann Dawson (theatrical movie directorial debut after directing numerous TV shows) doesn’t frame the characters in glowing terms. They are presented with flaws, inconsistencies and insecurities fully evident.
“Breakthrough” is paced by several good performances:
Metz (TV’s “This Is Us,” 2016-2019) portrays the mother as an unpleasant, depressed person with little patience. She believes she’s right and let’s everyone know it.
Grace (“Black KkKlansman,” 2018; “Spider-Man 3,” 2007; “That ‘70s Show,” 1998-2006) plays a wiry, assertive pastor with staccato speech who sometimes seems more skeptical than the skeptics.
Ruiz (in his theatrical movie debut) portrays a middle-schooler who has shut down almost all communication. He self-protects by keeping his earbuds in place and his playlist to himself.
Each of the three lead characters camoflage their painful past, which is subsequently expressed as angry outbursts. They are, in a sense, their own worst enemies.
Haysbert (TV’s “Reverie,” 2018; “Incorporated,” 2016-1017) plays Dr. Garrett, who’s in charge of the teen’s medical treatment, as an authoritative but kindly figure.
Mike Colter (TV’s “Luke Cage,” 2016-2018) is memorable as Tommy Shine, a first-responder.
The movie includes examples of prayer and praise-worship church services, including a concluding scene that lifts the movie beyond typical theatrical movie releases.
Ultimately, “Breakthrough” isn’t so much a feature film, as an altar call. It’s one of the few films that wears its faith in nearly every frame. It’s recommended for families and youths, especially those who are Christians.
“Breakthrough,” MPAA rated PG (Parental Guidance Suggested Some material may not be suitable for children. Parents urged to give parental guidance. May contain some material parents might not like for their young children) for thematic content including peril; Genre: Biography, Drama; Run Time: 1 hr., 56 mins.; Distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.
Credit Readers Anonymous: Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors NBA basketball player, is an executive producer of “Breakthrough.” It’s the first 20th Century Fox produced film to be distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. Though set in Missouri, filming took place in Manitoba, Canada.
Box Office, April 26-28: “Avengers: Endgame” upped the weekend box office game, with a record-shattering $350 opening domestically, topping the 2018 record $257.69 million opening of “Avengers: Infinity War,” and grossing $1.2 billion worldwide, also topping the previous record $640.5 million opening of “Avengers: Infinity War.”
2. “Captain Marvel” gained from the “Endgame” momentum, again moved up two places, $8 million, $413.5 million, eight weeks. 3. “The Curse Of La Liorona” dropped two places from its one-week perch at No. 1 with $7.5 million, $41.2 million, two weeks. 4. “Breakthrough” dropped one place, $6.3 million, $26.1 million, two weeks. 5. “Shazam!” dropped three places, $5.5 million, $131.1 million, four weeks. 6. “Little” dropped one place, $3.4 million, $35.8 million, three weeks. 7. ”Dumbo” dropped one place, $3.2 million, $107 million, five weeks. 8. “Pet Sematary” dropped one place, $1.3 million, $52.6 million, four weeks. 9. “Us” dropped one place, $1.1 million, $172.8 million, six weeks. 10. “Penguins” moved up two places, $1.1 million, $5.7 million, two weeks.
Unreel, May 3:
“Long Shot,” R: Jonathan Levine directs Charlize Theron, Seth Rogen, June Diane Raphael and O’Shea Jackson Jr. in the Romance-Comedy. A man reunites with his first crush, who is running for president of the United States.
“UglyDolls,” PG: Kelly Asbury directs the voice talents of Kelly Clarkson, Nick Jonas, Janelle Monáe and Blake Shelton in the Animation Musical Comedy. The UglyDolls cope with being different.
“The Intruder,” PG-13: Deon Taylor directs Meagan Good, Dennis Quaid, Michael Ealy and Joseph Sikora in the Horror Thriller. A man refuses to leave.
Two Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes