Jump For Joy
A Champion Heart
Stars: Mandy Grace, Devan Key, Donna Rusch, David de Vos, Isabella Mancuso, Ariana Guido, Caris Kozak and Ryan O’Quinn
Director: David de Vos
Scriptwriters: David de Vos and Stephanie de Vos
Composer: Will Musser
Cinematographer: Ian Robertson
Running Length: 90 Minutes
Novelization by Tiffany North
Faith films can come with many story lines, some about sports, some about music, and some about animals. “A Champion Heart” concerns a horse with what some people think is a defect---he has one ear that is only a partial ear. Because of his appearance, he is out of the stable of champions, and delegated to end of the line and taken in by a horse rescue farm. Sullen and contrary, he needs a friend. Guess what…he is going to get one. This story of faith, trust, hope and overcoming emotional obstacles is well done with directing, casting, soundtrack, cinematography and most of all – a horse named Tux.
We begin with a view of a brown and white horse in the enclosure of a horse rescue farm. He is being difficult and is hard to handle. Then, we switch to a father (David de Vos) and daughter, Mandy (Mandy Grace) who are traveling to a less expensive place to live, a trailer park. Times are a bit rough, and Mandy’s mother, passed away a year ago. School is awkward for newcomers and Mandy goes with the rich girls and riding with low terrain vehicles. She can’t control hers and speeds onto the property of a horse rescue ranch, destroying a small shed and contents. The others leave and Mandy is left to the consequences, and with her father’s approval, working at the ranch to pay off the $1000 debt. The ranch’s owner, Diane (Donna Rusch) has her own story to tell about helping animals…and people, too. Also, working at the ranch is Brad (Devan Key), who is a sought-after boy at school. The two become friends and find they have similar backgrounds. However, there is still Zoey to contend with---being rich does not give her a pleasing personality. Girl meets horse, whose name was Rocky, but is now called Tux. They become friends, and apples help. Donna suggests that Mandy learn how to ride. The story has a neat twist here and it is fun to continue, with hi-jinks at the farm, healing emotional and physical wounds and learning how to trust again.
Mandy Grace makes “Mandy” into an appealing person, who tries to grieve for her mother, tries to care for her father, tries to go to school and tries so hard at everything, but something isn’t right. She has no faith in herself. Devan Key is Brad, the boy who comes along at just the right time to help Mandy find her way. The opposite is Isabella Mancuso as Zoey, the girl you can spot a mile away as self-centered. David de Vos does triple duty, as the director, co-writer and actor playing Dad to Mandy. As Dad, he doesn’t know how to reach her emotionally, and through body language, shows his discomfort. Donna Rusch’s Diane, has a special scene where she talks about loss in her family and her love for her ranch. You can believe in the characters and their particular situations.
Will Musser’s soundtrack is appropriate for the scenes, whether action or comedy, and yes, there is plenty of humor in this film. Cinematographer Ian Robertson catches just the right light for horse action scenes and brings the audience into it. With music, camera, animals and actors, this is a winning combination. Hope is always on the horizon and with friends to help, and a touch of prayer---achievable.
There is always a doubt, when you are an actor, whether you can work with children and/or animals. I appreciated the horse action scenes, and Tux, is a natural actor. Does he have his own agent? Horse Calendar? Twitter Account? The horse resembles “Scout” from the old “Lone Ranger” TV series. Learning how to ride a horse as a way to deal with the turmoil in one’s life is one way to solve emotional problems. There is a natural feeling about the story that comes through and everyone, especially the horse, seems to be having a good time. That’s what “A Champion Heart” is, a good time.
Copyright 2019 Marie Asner