This 75-minute indie film from 1981 was directed by Russell Daughten, who also directed Nite Song and Face In The Mirror.
After losing his wife and his son in a car accident, Dave Weimer (William Wellman, Jr.) rebuilds his life by starting the most successful Christian puppet show in Iowa. He has been invited back to his hometown so that he can put on a special charity performance at the high school gym. Unfortunately, because Dave is going to need a lot of time to rehearse, this means that basketball practice has been canceled for a month!
The town’s teenagers are not happy about this. For one thing, they’re really not sure who Dave Weimer is and they’re convinced that they are all way too old for puppets. Why should they have to miss out on basketball for a kid’s show!? So, a group of them get together and break into Dave’s workshop. They destroy all of his puppets. They also get arrested, even the little girl who was only there because her dumb older brother was supposed to be babysitting her!
The judge wants to throw the book at them but Dave has another idea. He wants them to be put on two months probation and he wants to be their probation officer. He wants the kids to build their own puppets and then put on their own biblically-inspired show. Basically, their punishment is to do the show that Dave was originally planning on doing….
At first, no one is excited about doing a puppet show. But it’s either that or go to juvenile hall. The teens decide to do a show based on the story of the Prodigal Son. One-by-one, they all let their guard down and open up to Dave. Soon, the puppet show becomes less community service and more of a bible study. However, Todd — the leader of the gang — is still angry and he plots to destroy the puppets once again….
Well, this was an interesting one. On the one hand, the puppets were cute and I usually like movies in which a group of people suddenly have to put on a show. On the other hand, Dave was kind of a creepy character. Dave was played by William Wellman, Jr, a character actor who, before he became a regular in Daughten’s films, was best-known for appearing in biker films and the occasional war film. (He appeared in several Billy Jack films. He was a biker in Born Losers and a national guardsman in The Trial of Billy Jack.) Wellman was well-cast as bikers and soldiers because he always came across as being very tightly wound and intense. From the minute Wellman showed up on screen, he always seemed like he was just a few minutes from exploding. Again, that’s a good trait for a biker but it’s not as good a trait for the creator of a Christian puppet show. Wellman was a good actor but he just seems miscast here and, as a result, something always seems to be a little off about Dave.
As for the cast, I imagine they were largely amateurs or else actors drawn from the Des Moines theatrical community. For the most part, the teenagers do better than the adults. Like other Daughten films, Brother Enemy is almost painfully sincere. Still, it’s hard not to watch the movie and feel that a lot of trouble could have been avoided if Dave had just had enough sense to lock the door of his workshop.