One of the most intriguing aspects of Where Hope Grows is also among the least important: Danica McKellar (that’s Winnie Cooper to us mere mortals) and William Zabka (“Sweep the leg, Johnny!”) play a married couple.
The faith-based drama surrounding their tertiary relationship tells of a washed-up ballplayer whose unexpected friendship with a young adult living with Down syndrome yields many insights of the life-affirming variety.
Writer-director Chris Dowling handles that worrisome premise with a more even hand than this genre’s ill-advised predecessors, though Produce (David DeSanctis), the inspirational teen in question, is often reduced to a narrative device rather than a three-dimensional character. Calvin Campbell (Kristoffer Polaha) is a single father whose fleeting glory on the baseball diamond does little to make his current struggles any easier, while Produce works among the fruits and vegetables at a local supermarket with the dastardly Colt (Michael Grant), a patently evil youth who happens to be dating Calvin’s daughter. These combustible narrative elements come to a head in a third act that reduces Where Hope Grows to an overt morality tale. (Spoiler-averse viewers needn’t read on.)
When a drunk-driving accident leaves two key characters in life-or-death peril, Dowling and Co. coyly use the fact that the more innocent of the two is alive as a triumphant reveal — all well and good, though also a bit awkward considering a stadium full of fans erupts in applause at the exact moment we realize someone else is dead.