The principal message in the overt message movie "Last Ounce of Courage" -- that religious freedom belongs to all Americans, including Christians -- would hold more universal resonance had the Christians in this small town stood up for the rights of another religious denomination or, even more on-message, had other denominations stood alongside Christians demanding fair and equal treatment.
In "Last Ounce," the Christians are in it to win it mostly for themselves. And this overwrought, melodramatic story casts them so effectively as political underdogs that even atheists might be rooting for them by the closing credits.
"Last Ounce of Courage"★ ˝
Starring: Marshall Teague, Jennifer O'Neill, Hunter Gomez, Fred Williamson
Directed by: Darrel Campbell and Kevin McAfee
Other: A Veritas Entertainment release. Rated PG. 101 minutes
Marshall Teague stars as Bob Revere (patriotic name noted), a decorated war hero who sends his own son off to war, leaving behind a wife and baby. When his son is killed in action, Revere becomes withdrawn from his daughter-in-law and his grandson.
Fourteen years pass. A graying Revere rides around town on a motorcycle proudly brandishing the flag, the political inversion of Peter Fonda in "Easy Rider." Revere, married to his lovely wife (Jennifer O'Neill), is now the mayor of his archetypal Rockwellian American town.
Grandson Christian (religious name noted) has grown up to be a teen rebel in trouble for bringing a Bible to school.
Not only is Christian (Hunter Gomez) reprimanded for the Bible incident, the Christian cross that has been a local storefront fixture has been removed after a citizen found it offensive.
Now, Revere is angry.
"Our freedoms have been taken away from us, one by one!" he tells his friends.
Revere decides it's time for John Wayne action after the city council tells him he can't put Christmas decorations on the town square because of the constitutional separation of church and state.
"People are declaring war on Christmas!" Revere states.
He's right, because at the local middle school, students in the holiday play sing Christmas carols with secularized lyrics such as "Silent night, wintry night" under the shrill direction of a thinly disguised, stereotypically gay drama teacher.
Revere goes rogue! He orders Christmas decorations be set up and publicly declares their community to be Christmastown.
Liberal news media descend upon the town and its mayor, who's eventually fired by the city council. (Apparently, Revere is the only mayor in America not elected to represent the people, but an administrative hire who can be dumped without a public recall.)
The villain of the story comes from Chicago: Warren Hammerschmidt (former football great Fred Williamson), a Shakespearean tempter attorney from the apparently evil American Civil Liberties Organization.
"Take down these decorations and I'll pretend this never happened!" wheezes Hammerschmidt.
But defiant Revere only becomes more committed.
Will the community rise to the challenge by supporting their former mayor in his fight to keep the freedoms that "our forefathers, our bothers-in-arms, and my son died for"?
Regardless of its less-than-subtle raison d'ętre, "Last Ounce" has been directed with ample sincerity by screenwriter Darrel Campbell and producer Kevin McAfee, who seamlessly blend their announced values of family, faith and freedom into an effective emotional pitch that easily bypasses left brain functions and hits the bull's-eye of its target audience.
As a feature film, however, "Last Ounce" is a lot of made-for-TV quality hokum served up with a bombastically stirring score, stilted performances, bald appeals to patriotism and family, all capped with a divine touch: an angel of God that appears to Revere dressed as an American service veteran.
Separation of church and state? Not in Christmastown.