Wayward: The Prodigal Son
2014, PG-13, 92 min. Directed by Rob Diamond. Starring Landon Henneman, Blake Webb, Rob Diamond, Pam Eichner, Kristen Marie Jensen, Crystal Udy, Keith Hottinger.
REVIEWED By William Goss, Wed., Nov. 5, 2014
“There’s this story in the Bible that’s very similar to our journey…” If the title Wayward: The Prodigal Son wasn’t telling enough, writer-director-producer-star Rob Diamond at least waits until his film’s final moments to personally underline its basis in Christian lore. Compared to most faith-based films, Wayward takes its sweet time getting to the inevitable sermon, but the bulk of the story merely substitutes a hoary gambling drama in its bid for overwrought sibling rivalry and overdue redemption.
Diamond plays Robert McMillan, vaguely wealthy and secretly ailing father of loyal Will (Webb) and reckless Tyler (Henneman). Tired of being the black sheep and unaware of his father’s leukemia diagnosis, fed-up Tyler asks his parents for his half of the inheritance and takes off to Vegas to find himself, only to wind up in too deep with his gambling debts.
The earnestness of Diamond’s production is apparent from the get-go, as the potential tension of a flash-forward opening is immediately undone by wooden performances and overly explanatory dialogue (“Tyler! Those guys you owe money to are on their way here!”). Much of the proceedings falls into a similar trap, with characters spelling out their motivations to one another for the sake of the audience, as if the villains’ ridiculous haircuts and laughable accents weren’t evidence enough of nefarious schemes afoot.
Ironically, the only person who isn’t out to screw over Tyler at the Golden Halo casino is an honest-to-goodness hooker with a heart of gold (Udy), who fears for the state of his soul when not dusting off old chestnuts like, “You’re not in Kansas anymore.” In terms of fundamental craft, Wayward occasionally boasts a touch of flair – a crane shot here, a Dutch angle there – beyond that of your average Hallmark-grade melodrama, but at the end of the day, there’s no problem that a life on the farm and a fistful of dollars can’t fix. The best that can be said for this one is that we’ve seen plenty worse of its kind.