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Cinema in Focus: ‘Secrets of the Mountain’

A wholesome tale in which a family finds treasure in one another

2 Stars — Wholesome

Douglas Barr’s Secrets of the Mountain is a made-for-TV movie, now available on DVD. This simple fact explains why the film is simplistic and predictable.

Although the imaginative premise that an ancient civilization built a temple to the sun deep within a honeycombed mountain could have been interesting, Barr’s story lacks the narrative necessary for this to be believed. Instead, the film focuses on the interaction of the James family as they attempt to negotiate the divorce of the parents and the intensities of modern life. Likewise, the villain of the tale is humorously stereotypical, yet the possibility of his being a comic relief is missed as the film tries to be serious cinema.

The mother of the James family is Dana (Paige Turco). Dana is a public defender whose three children are neglected both because of her professional responsibilities and because of her divorce of their father. This divorce is never explained, though her inability to keep family commitments is implied.

The three children are Jake (Crawford Wilson) and Jade Ann (Adelaide Kane), who are both teenagers, and Maddie (Kayla Carlson), who is prepubescent.

Central to the plot is the sibling conflict between Jake and Jade. Also central to the tale, and perhaps to a hoped-for series, is the insightful genius of young Maddie, who ridicules the teenagers’ angst while providing solutions to the secrets of the mountain.

The other two main characters include Dana’s Uncle Henry Beecham (Barry Bostwick) and villain Nigel Fowler (Andreas Apergis). Uncle Henry provides an interesting character whose background is not explained.

We will not spoil the secret or the twists that provide the movement of the plot, but we will explain that the story is a wholesome tale with some scary moments that make it not suitable for young children. In the end, the film presents a wholesome message that family matters most. Though not really a secret, that is the true treasure they all find.

Discussion:

» This film suggests that divorce can cause children to feel alone. Do you believe Jade’s experience is usual or not?

» The introduction of attorney Tom Kent (Shawn Christian) as a love interest for Dana is so predictable that it lacks chemistry. How would you change the tale to bring more dynamic elements?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church, 1435 Cliff Drive. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com.

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