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Movie Review – Carol of the Bells

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carol of the bells
A bit smaltzy, but that’s to be expected.

Carol of the Bells is a lot like a Hallmark Christmas movie, and I don’t mean this in a good way. You could see the seams in the acting and directing transitions, and it didn’t come across as a polished story. That said, Andrea F. Friedman, the actress with Down’s Syndrome, stole the show in every scene. She made Carol of the Bells worth bothering with. She’s a find. Good on her.

Of course, if you are a sentimental sort, you might like this film more than I did. The bell choir, with the developmentally disabled clients, was very sweet.

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However, there was way too much time spent with the ‘normal’ family and I honestly didn’t care about their story. I didn’t feel for Jeremy, the kid; the ‘nice’ couple; or the nice couple’s parents. It was a lot of lame.

Where things got interesting was with the Down Syndrome mother (Donna Mills) and the case worker (Lee Purcell). Every time the story stuck to Carol was gold. Not as great as the Down Syndrome story in The Peanut Butter Falcon (which I gave an A+ as my second favorite film of 2019, right after Avengers: Endgame). But I felt there was a seed of a good film here. It was just not executed very well.

I spent a lot of my screen time fast forwarding through the scenes with the Johnsons, and just enjoying the moments with Carol and her life. The actress did a lovely job, and it’s not her fault the rest of the cast/writing/directing let her down.

How Did We Grade Carol of the Bells?

I’m giving this a decent score because I think people that enjoy this type of ‘Hallmark’ Holiday Movie will get a lot out of this, and maybe cry at the end. Of course it has a happy ending. It’s a CHRISTMAS film. Having family come together in loving company is an important trope for this earnest and sincere genre.

Director Joey Travolta needs a bit more practice at his craft, in my opinion. But if you have any interest in the developmentally disabled, there’s some good nuggets to be mined here. According to their press release: “Joey Travolta, whose many film and television credits include “Beverly Hills Cop III”, “Oscar” and “Amazon Women on the Moon”, teaches filmmaking to individuals with developmental disabilities at 6 partner studios across California via Inclusion Films.”

A crew of 70% individuals with developmental disabilities recently produced Carol of the Bells through Travolta’s Inclusion Films. So he could carve out a good niche in the DD industry, with time.

Carol of the Bells will be out on DVD and Digital March 3 from High Octane Pictures.

Movie Grade: C+

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