The Films of 2020: Mighty Oak (dir by Sean McNamara)

Mighty Oak tells the story of Army of Love.

Back in the day, Army of Love was an up-and-coming band in Los Angeles.  They were led by charismatic frontman Vaughn Jackson (played by Bob Dylan’s incredibly handsome grandson, Levi Dylan) and managed by Vaughn’s overprotective sister, Gina (Jannel Parrish).  Unfortunately, one night. they were driving home from a gig when a drunk driver collided with their van.  Vaughn was thrown through the windshield and killed.  Army of Love went into permanent hiatus.

However, ten years later, Army of Love is back!  Gina is once again managing and they’ve got a new lead singer.  His name is Oak Scroggins (Tommy Ragen) and he’s ten years old!  But he plays guitar and sings like he’s at least in his early 20s!  At first, some members of the band are skeptical but everyone is won over once Oak starts to perform.  Gina is especially impressed, to the extent that she becomes convinced that Oak is literally Vaughn’s reincarnation.

Of course, Oak’s life isn’t perfect.  Despite his talent (or perhaps because of it), he’s a bit of an outcast at school.  His father’s dead and his mother is the type of drug addict who misses her son’s musical debut because she’s too busy getting arrested on the California-Mexico border.  His grandparents are back in Minnesota and they seem like they mean well but his grandfather has a habit of shouting stuff like, “Kids should be seen not heard!,” so who knows?  Can Gina and the band provide Oak with the family that he needs and will Gina ever discover whether or not Oak is actually her dead brother?  Watch the film to find out.

This is kind of a weird movie.  Sean McNamara previously directed Soul Surfer, which was such a sincere and unapologetically emotional film that it was pretty much impossible not to love it.  Mighty Oak is also extremely sincere and unapologetic but it’s also such a mishmash of different elements and contradictory tones that it’s hard to really know what to make of it.  It starts out as a drama and then it becomes a bit of a broad comedy and then it goes back to being a tear jerker and, in the end, it seems to be trying too hard to convince you that reincarnation is a logical solution as opposed to just being wishful thinking.  Even if you can buy into the idea that Vaughn was reincarnated as Oak, you also have to be willing to believe that the members of defunct hard rock band wouldn’t have any issue with reforming so that they could back up a ten year old.

That said, it’s difficult to really dislike a film like Mighty Oak.  Yes, the plot is a mess and the tone is totally inconsistent and I don’t know much about reincarnation but I’m sure there’s more to the belief than what is presented in this film.  But, as I said at the start of this review, the film’s heart appears to be in the right place and everyone involved seems to mean well and there is something to be said for that.  It helps that Tommy Ragen is a real-life musical prodigy and that he actually can play the guitar just as well in real life as he does in the film.  If nothing else, this elevates the film in a way that casting a typical child actor would not.  It’s a silly movie but you can’t deny that Tommy Ragen is a talented kid.

One response to “The Films of 2020: Mighty Oak (dir by Sean McNamara)

  1. Pingback: Lisa’s Week In Review: 12/21/20 — 12/27/20 | Through the Shattered Lens

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