False Note, by Bob Connally

6 Apr

Will Hawkins (Kevin Quinn) is a troubled teen who has moved from home to home since the death of his parents. After A Week Away’s opening scene in which he is arrested for “stealing a police car,” which he isn’t driving at any point during said scene, we are given Will’s lengthy rap sheet as he is told the only option now for him is juvenile hall. Will’s officer (Ed Amatrudo) tells the audien – I mean, Will, that he’s a “great kid,” even though he’s just given us no evidence of that. It’s indicative of the many problems to come that between both the stolen police car and our protagonist’s personality, A Week Away jumps right into the, “Tell, Don’t Show,” school of screenwriting.

Thankfully for Will but unfortunately for everyone watching this film, he’s given a last-minute reprieve by being invited to a week-long summer camp by Kristin (Sherri Shepherd) and her son, George (Jahbril Cook). For reasons that defy understanding after being told his only other choice is juvie, Will turns down the offer at first, saying that summer camp isn’t his thing. Then, after being reminded that juvie is his only other choice about one minute after being told that in the first place, he changes his mind. So within the first few minutes, it’s established that our main character is either an idiot or has a terrible memory and for no reason at all, the movie has wasted our time. Things don’t get any better from here.

A Week Away is touted as the first Christian film produced by Netflix and it surely won’t be the last. Low and mid-budget movies are being kept alive now by streaming services, so it stands to reason that Christian filmmakers would love to be able to continue making what they want to make and get those films straight into viewers’ homes. The draw here seems to be that this is a musical, featuring both original songs and the works of popular Christian artists of the ’80s and ’90s such as Steven Curtis Chapman and Amy Grant. To be honest, as a lifelong Catholic, those songs were never on my radar so as I watched the film, I didn’t know which songs were thirty years old and which were written for the movie.

As for the story, A Week Away is riddled with cliches from top to bottom, and while near the film’s end, the camp counselor played inexplicably by David Koechner says, “It’s been a week unlike any other,” it’s really been a week like every other summer camp movie you’ve ever seen minus the R or even PG-13 rated shenanigans. We know how everything is going to turn out and even when a character choice or story development makes no logical sense, it happens anyway because the screenplay by Alan Powell and Kail Bailey must adhere to the beats that these films are apparently required by law to have. This kind of predictability can be acceptable if the characters are at least interesting and likable and if the comedy is legitimately funny. The characters are unfortunately not the least bit interesting though they are likable. Really too likable in that even the camp bully really isn’t that bad. The likeability is pushed to the point of making them boring. As for Will, at no point do we believe that he’s ever been the rambunctious youth we are told about at the beginning. This is supposed to be a movie about a transformation but we never see him at his worst so his journey, like everything else in A Week Away, is entirely superficial. The only way this kid ever would ever steal a police car would be to drive a little old lady to the hospital. For his part, Quinn certainly has charisma and could probably be quite good if given an interesting character to play, but he doesn’t get that here. There isn’t much to say about the rest of the cast, though as George, Cook certainly does his best. 

Comedically, everything falls flat here. A Week Away is directed by Roman White, a veteran of music videos. Presumably, this is why he was hired to direct a musical but music videos and narrative musical films are decidedly not the same thing and he really doesn’t handle any of the narrative or comedy aspects well. Koechner was clearly the big get in the cast here and the movie really wants to give him as much comic material as it can, but he’s clearly being muzzled here.

There’s one attempt at an honest moment late in the film in which Will angrily asks where God was when his parents died, but the scene ends and it’s never brought up again. It almost feels accidental that it ended up in the movie at all. There is no true, meaningful struggle for these characters that anyone will be able to relate to and every conflict just dissipates rather than truly being resolved.

Everything about A Week Away is trite and empty. Even with it sitting there on Netflix, this is not worth anyone’s time even out of curiosity. This is an absolute failure.

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