Horror producer surprises with Christian drama 'Grace Unplugged'
By John Horn
Published: Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013, 6:49 p.m.
The last three movies produced by Mark Burg — a sequel to “Saw,” the remake “Texas Chainsaw 3D” and a violent revenge tale called “The Tortured” — were all rated R for “grisly” and “sadistic” violence and were hardly pleasant experiences for characters trying to remain alive.
But Hollywood has a habit of making strange bedfellows, and with Burg's latest project, fans of the horror veteran's work may be surprised by its story: “Grace Unplugged” is a Christian drama about a church singer (AJ Michalka) whose estrangement from her evangelical father mirrors the prodigal-son parable in the Gospel of Luke.
“Grace Unplugged” is hoping to satisfy a largely overlooked segment of the moviegoing audience — people who support family-friendly entertainment that carries a devotional message.
Made for just $1.7 million, “Grace Unplugged” opens in Birmingham, Ala., where 18-year-old Grace Trey (Michalka) and her father, Johnny (James Denton), are playing devotional songs for a small congregation. It's clear the two are clashing over their performances, and Grace feels her inflexible father is crimping not only her music but also her professional ambitions.
After a fight with her father, Grace decides to leave for Hollywood, where she connects with a record producer named Frank Mostin (Kevin Pollack), who once made albums with her father, when Johnny was a hard-living rock ‘n' roller. Frank encourages Grace to dump her Christian music in favor of pop tunes, and hires a stylist to tart her up a bit. Southern California has its temptations — alcohol, single men, nightclubs — but it's not some wicked Gomorrah, as the genre typically might have it.
Before long, Grace is succeeding. But her climb up the charts carries a personal price. Is she living for God, or for herself? Can she own her faith, and thereby be reconciled with her family?
Michalka, who said she has been doing nearly as many interviews with secular-news outlets as religious ones, believes that the movie — rated PG for thematic elements and brief teen drinking — can appeal to mainstream moviegoers, in addition to the core Christian audience. “The movie really does plant its feet in both worlds,” Michalka said. “For me, it's really, truly and purely a family film.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Oakmont library documentary screenings provide cultural dialogues
- ‘Skin’ has a lot going on underneath
- ‘The Chair’ documents the making of comedy films around Pittsburgh
- ‘Transcendence’ stuck in tropes
- Jude Law struts his dark side in ‘Dom’