Mighty Oak is one of the stranger family movies to be released in recent years. Army of Love is a band about to play their biggest gig ever. On the way, they are involved in a fatal car crash. Fast forward ten years and the band is long forgotten. Suddenly, it appears a ten year old is Army of Love’s lead singer reincarnated. Is this really the case or is Oak just an amazing guitar player?
Family films usually require a lot of suspension of disbelief. This makes it possible to move forward the more nonsensical parts of the story. Normally, this is not an issue. Unfortunately, it does not work the same here. Mighty Oak requires more than what is usually needed. The fact Oak May be the the second coming of a great guitar player is actually the most believable part. This genre has seen people brought back as animals, formerly inanimate objects, and the opposite sex, among other things. Even coming back as a child is nothing new.
Accepting the former members of Army of Love are willing to reform with a ten year as their lead singer is a little stranger. Especially when the band’s large female following remains after Oak is inserted into the lineup. The final scene is especially surreal. If the band believed he was their former lead singer Vaughn, it would be acceptable in that silly family movie way. But Vaughn’s sister Gina is the only one who thinks this is the case.
The oddness does not end there. Tonally, the movie is all over the place. Mighty Oak is obviously a family movie. That does not prevent it from including a gruesome (by this genre’s standards) death scene. It also uses the word “s--t” more times than this type of film should. In a vacuum, either would be seen as little more than oddities. Together, they come off as misplaced.
Mighty Oak does try to do something different with its central premise. The movie spends more time focusing on Gina’s (unhealthy) obsession with Oak. The story is more than being about a ten year old leading his new band to fame and glory. It is interesting to say the least. It is obvious why Gina would be interested in someone playing her dead brother’s songs on his guitar.
What is strange is why something as innocuous as the way someone points would make her believe that person is her brother reincarnated. (Mighty Oak does not really make it seem like it is more than coincidence or even hero worship.) A look at Gina’s recent past tries to show why this is the case. If her backstory went deeper than surface level, it would be a very interesting character study.
Tommy Ragen is the brightest spot in Mighty Oak. He is asked to deal with a lot from a drug abusing mother to bullies at school to leading a popular rock band. It is a wide ranging performance not usually seen in family films. Ragen is up to the task. The look of excitement on Oak’s face when he first meets Army of Love is a particularly good moment.
One of the fun things about family movies is they allow the audience to turn off their brains and have a little fun. Mighty Oak asks anyone watching to give it the benefit of the doubt constantly. When there is this much mental gymnastics involved, it takes away from the enjoyment of the movie. From the premise to its far fetched ending, the story requires a lot of looking away to make sense.
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