Susie’s Hope (Green Apple Entertainment, NR)

Susies Hope 75This is the kind of bland, hilariously sloppy and irredeemable Lifetime or Hallmark TV movie that is as embarrassing as it is irksome.




Susies Hope 500

Susie’s Hope is a TV movie about a woman named Donna Lawrence (Emanuelle Vaugier) who saves the life of a beaten and burned pit bull puppy, after being recently maimed by a pit bull herself. Despite the high cost of life-saving surgery, she pulls the funds together and adopts Susie, puts her abuser in jail, and improves animal cruelty laws. It came out in 2013 and probably aired somewhere, and someone watched it. The DVD comes out on January 5th and will be sold primarily at Walmart, according to the press notes I got. So far, you’re probably less than interested. Well, I’m here to tell you that you’re right to feel that way. The movie means well, and it’s kind of sweet to think someone thought it should exist, I guess. But this is the kind of bland, hilariously sloppy and irredeemable Lifetime or Hallmark TV movie that is as embarrassing as it is irksome.

The script is slapped together. Every single scene has overwritten, corny dialogue, the kind which makes you scratch your head because it sounds so clearly lame that you don’t know why someone didn’t step in and put a stop to it. The characters are poorly developed. Donna’s husband, Roy (Burgess Jenkins), is particularly uneven and thoughtlessly written. He’ll go from cold and lacking in understanding to kind and supportive within the span of two scenes, with nothing to incite the sudden change in disposition. When the director tries to craft a stylistic shot, it’s badly executed and inappropriate. At one point, a basic phone conversation gets shot handheld and constantly shifts angles like a scene from Birdman. No one anywhere seemed to know how to show versus tell, and scenes go on forever. There’s one scene where the owner of an animal shelter takes calls for donations and we have to hear three full transactions when one would have gotten the point across. They use a mechanical puppy robot for the scenes where they find Susie near death and also when they operate on her, and the contraption is just fake enough to be unintentionally hilarious. At one point it licks a hand with an obviously CGI tongue, at which I involuntarily gasped due to the heinousness of it. You get the picture.

You probably didn’t know Susie’s Hope even existed until you started reading this review. It feels weird to bring this movie to your attention and then tell you not to watch it just as quickly as I brought it up. I suppose it would be courteous (or something) to the people who made Susie’s Hope to list some of the positive things in it. The director, Jerry Rees, directed the enjoyable-for-mostly-nostalgic-reasons Brave Little Toaster and helped create a bunch of the visual effects on Tron, oddly enough. So I’ll go ahead and list the selling points of this film, for his sake.

1. The movie was made with animal safety and anti-animal cruelty in mind.

2. If you buy the DVD, part of the proceeds go to Susie’s Hope Nonprofit, a charity started by Donna Lawrence to raise awareness about animal abuse.

3. Emanuelle Vaugier is pretty good. She’s a good crier. She comes across as unnatural and awkward sometimes, but I blame the horrendous TV movie dialogue for that.

4. Despite most of the movie being bad, the scene where Donna gets attacked by the pit bull is actually pretty nuanced and well done. There’s no annoyingly ominous score or a barrage of intense shots. It’s all done with simple editing tricks and ambient outdoors noise, which is unexpectedly subtle for a film like this.

5. There’s a cute puppy in it.

6. Almost everyone is above-average looking.

7. There’s scene where a guy brings his pet iguana into the vet’s office and the iguana’s name is Chili.

8. Grandma might like it.

So there you go. If that’s enough for you to go pick it up and watch it, then more power to you. I’m not here to judge. | Nic Champion

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