A story with a Christian message is a rare and compelling gem for Catholic viewers in today's Hollywood culture. At the same time, a film that leads first with a positive message, and merely tacks the story on as an afterthought, is one set to leave even the most devoted Christians cold.
Unfortunately, this is a problem with "Last Ounce of Courage" (Veritas Entertainment) -- a picture about religious freedom and standing up for what one believes against the tyranny of the vocal minority.
When war veteran and small-town mayor Bob Revere (Marshall R. Teague) witnesses a war on Christmas taking place across America, he is inspired by the memory of his deceased son -- who died in combat 14 years earlier -- and the challenge of his broody grandson Christian (Hunter Gomez) to stand up and continue the fight for freedom for which his son so valiantly died.
Therefore, on Bob's orders, Christ is put back in Christmas, the lights go up and carols are sung once again. Yet as the mayor seeks to encourage his fellow citizens to reclaim the feast of the Lord's Incarnation, he must face off against the sinister Warren Hammerschmidt (Fred Williamson) -- a lawyer from the fictitious American Civil Liberties Organization -- who sees Bob's crusade as an infringement on the separation between church and state.
All while this is going on, the younger members of the community, led by Christian, are faced with a generic school winter celebration and comically try to hijack the situation and inject Jesus back into the proceedings.
Unfortunately, directors Kevin McAfee and Darrel Campbell's picture lays the emotion on thick to make their point. The film no doubt has some very poignant moments accompanying its laudable and refreshing message, especially those between Bob and his wife Dottie (Jennifer O'Neill). Yet, when even the light-hearted pageant story line ends in a tear-jerker finale, it is a sign that something is amiss.
While making salient points about the continuing threats to religious freedom that are real and present, the plot comes across as highly conspiratorial and forced in order to fit the message being promoted. So, in one early scene, Christian is dragged in front of his school principal, and his family called in, when he is discovered to have a Bible on his person. Really?
Amid the lashings of exuberant flag-waving and political points about civil rights movements gone awry sits a picture that both moves and promotes a solid pro-faith message. Unfortunately, the accompanying tidal wave of weak story and sentimentality threatens at all times to overwhelm Christian audiences rather than inspire them.
The film contains a few instances of combat violence and occasional distressing scenes. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG -- parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.