Charlie: A Toy Story is pretty much everything that audiences have come to expect from Engine 15 Productions with one obvious exception. That exception is the movie’s title. While the movie bears the name of the family’s dog, the movie is less about him and more about his young nine-year old companion, Caden (Raymond Ochoa). It is a fitting film for any group of younger church goers with its obvious religious undertones. And while its production values aren’t exactly Hollywood caliber, the positive messages of faith and family make up for that, and make it a piece that is worth at least one watch.
Charlie: A Toy Story is a rather misleading title for this feature, considering that the story is less about the dog, Charlie, than about his young companion, Caden. Engine 15 isn’t the first studio to ever use such a tactic. So considering that, it can be forgiven. That’s because what’s most important about this straight-to-DVD release isn’t who is the real star, but its messages of faith and family. The message of faith isn’t an entirely overt one, but neither is it covert. Caden’s message to his father—who is separated from his mother, who is ironically named Faith—is to always believe, even in the midst of a divorce and struggling o come up with a toy that could change Jack and his family’s life forever. This message is meant to be construed both in a secular and non-secular manner. That it was able to incorporate the message without being too preachy helps the movie an easy watch both in a living room and in a Sunday school classroom.
The message of faith is just one message that families and religious institutions will appreciate from Charlie: A Toy Story. As noted already, the message of faith is linked directly to the family situation of Jack, Caden and Faith. Jack and Faith are divorced, and Caden is caught in the middle of the pair. Despite this, Caden has faith in his father, both in terms of his father’s drive to invent a great toy and as a father. This isn’t the only family issue to which audiences are introduced. Along with dealing with a broken family, Caden also has to deal with a bully named Scooter. It turns out that Scooter is a bully because he has his own family problems. As he has gotten older, he and his father Chip (Matthew Tompkins) have grown increasingly distant from one another. Of course, being a family movie, both of these family situations are resolved thus leaving audiences with that standard warm, fuzzy feeling.
Both the messages of family and faith are integral to Charlie: A Toy Story. They are messages that can be used to teach life lessons in the living room or a Sunday school classroom. They are messages that can be related to any young viewer. They are that relatable. It’s because of that ability of young viewers to relate to the movie’s themes and messages that this will turn out to be a feature that will be worth watching by families at least once.
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