The gentle but unappealing goody-two-shoes mold of Sandy Tung’s Saving Shiloh is made of innocuous Southern comfort, into which a corny mixture of cotton-mouthed Hardy Boys mystery, Disney Channel dialogue, and Hallmark music is poured in. A dead body figures prominently, but the film couldn’t hurt a fly—after all, the kids here attend a bully-less school called Friendly Elementary. If Sandy Tung’s film had flavor, it might taste like a week-old bagel. Which is better, I suppose, than smacking of dead squirrel, which is what mean ‘ol Judd Travers (Scott Wilson) from down the lane brings to the Preston home, to the absolute (and understandable) horror of cunty little Dara Lynn (Kyle Chavarria), trying to make amends for reasons that are likely explained in two prequels I never heard of (also adapted from books by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor). The film’s road to redemption is paved with good intentions, but the lame-o finale telegraphs itself before you even enter the theater. Hint: someone saves Shiloh, a cute little bugger whose miniscule screen time is the film’s biggest travesty.
For some, this will be an easy transfer to criticize because of the excessive levels of grain and flecks evidenced throughout, but this gives the film personality. Colors appear unnaturally saturated in some scenes, but the image evokes a movie from the '70s-say, Deliverance. The audio is adequate: The hiss heard during some scenes scarcely sounds like the work of nature's creepy crawlies, and though dialogue is hot in spots, it's still clear.
A music video for Dayna Lane's "Open Your Heart" set to clips and behind-the-scenes footage from the film, an interview-get this-with Shiloh, voiced by what sounds like a horny tween girl, interviews with the cast and crew, all of whom are remarkably serious about their affection for Phyllis Reynolds Naylor's books, and previews for Superman: Brainiac Attacks, JammX Kids, Tom and Jerry: Shiver Me Whiskers, and the Shiloh book series.
Wait until next month when you can save Shiloh from the discount DVD bin at your local supermarket.