Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

The Music in Me airs on UP TV tonight (4/12) @ 7:00 PM (ET). The musical drama stars singer/songwriter Debbie Gibson (who wrote and performs the film’s original song Promises) and E.R.‘s Gloria Reuben. Others in the cast include Antonio Cupo (American Mary, Bomb Girls), Amy Forsyth (Defiance, Reign), Cedric Smith (Copper, Avonlea), Marcia Bennett (Serendipity, Happy Town), Kim Roberts (The Strain, Lucky 7) and Mike Lobel (Degrassi: The Next Generation, Really Me). John Bradshaw (Catch a Christmas Star, Come Dance with Me) directs. Bryar Freed (Love Finds You in Sugar Creek) wrote the script.

Synopsis (from the UP press release): Having traded in her dreams of becoming a professional singer to care for her aging parents and their neighborhood hardware store, Jessica (Debbie Gibson) is asked to step in as choir director for a failing church as they prepare for their the big centennial celebration.  When she arrives, Jessica is shocked to discover that the earnest choir can’t sing and that the wary Church Deaconess (Gloria Reuben) is betting on her to fail.  As she dives into rehearsals, Jessica builds a friendship with church handyman Ben (Antonio Cupo) and is challenged by choir member and teen runaway Alice (Amy Forsyth).  Through their friendship and her work with the choir, she rekindles her love of music and finally finishes the song she’s been struggling with for many years – ultimately finding love and a start to the music career she’s always dreamed of pursuing.

Review: Though the overall premise is promising, unfortunately there are too many false and off-key notes here to be considered one of UP’s better original movie offerings. Debbie Gibson as the choir director and Gloria Reuben as the strict church deaconess are both very good in their lead roles and they play off each other very well.

But I believe the film would liked to have seen more focus on the quirky choir members and less on the budding relationship with the bland church handyman (Antonio Cupo) whose super-supportiveness somehow comes across as more smarmy than sincere (which could be funny if he wasn’t actually presented as sincere).

Beyond those flat-noted scenes, I think the whole thing would have worked better if the comic potential of getting the motley crew choir ready for their big performance was played up a bit more. That key of F Troop potential is hinted at a bit — particularly with one member who talks and sings in extremely hushed tones but who sounds pretty good through a megaphone — but is never fully realized. The only choir member we learn much at all about is Alice (Amy Forsyth), good as a teenager who (slight spoiler alert) turns out to be homeless.

Despite its flaws, like many UP films, The Music in Me actually lays the groundwork for what could be a pretty good series — if the network and those involved decide to move in that direction. There’s lots of room for the characters to grow and ample opportunity for uplifting music mixed with character-driven comedy and drama. I’d just suggest tilting things a little bit more toward the comedy.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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