Movies

Critics Have Seen Unsung Hero, See What They’re Saying About The Faith-Based Story Of A Famous Musical Family

Christian music fans are likely familiar with the Australian duo For King + Country and their sister Rebecca St. James. The family has been making music for years, even earning five Grammy Awards between them, and now fans will get a chance to see their family’s story and the upbringing that led to those careers in the upcoming faith-based film Unsung Hero. Critics have seen the movie, so let’s take a look at what they’re saying.

Joel Smallbone stars as his father David, with Daisy Betts playing his wife Helen, and the cast also features plenty of recognizable names, including Candace Cameron Bure (who now also produces faith-centered movies), Jonathan Jackson, Terry O’Quinn and Hillary Scott. Smallbone pulls triple duty on the film, as he also wrote and directed the project with Richard Ramsey. Let’s take a look at the reviews, starting with Nicolas Rapold of the New York Times. The critic didn’t seem to think too much of the movie, calling it “cringe” and writing: 

Viewer beware: Between the uplift and the cringe, this movie may cause whiplash. Joel Smallbone plays his own father, David, who faces financial and reputational ruin after booking a big concert and failing to pack the house. He resettles the family in the United States, but no job materializes. His pep-talking spouse, Helen (Daisy Betts), and their beatific children pull up bootstraps and practically whistle while they work, but it’s not enough. … Despite the fuzzy good intentions, it’s tough to make much of this making-of story.

Katie Walsh of the L.A. Times also understands the movie’s intention and recognizes that it will inspire its audience members. However, the story is predictable, and Joel Smallbone is too close to the situation to properly reflect on his family’s experience and offer anything meaningful, Walsh writes. The critic says:  

It’s a humble story, one with the capacity to inspire in its simple message of perseverance. But the film itself, as an artistic product, feels limited in its observational scope, because the filmmaker doesn’t have any distance from the material. Smallbone is a fine actor, but alongside Ramsey, he’s a limited filmmaker. Their visual style is drab at best, and the storytelling lacks the kind of self-reflection that might elevate this project. As it is, Unsung Hero feels more like band merch than an insightful family portrait.

Others, however, seem moved by the Smallbones’ story and the family’s faith amid so many hardships. Linda of Linda’s Lunacy says she didn’t want the movie to end, and she recommends it as a family film, noting that it’s suitable for all ages. Linda writes: 

I was moved to tears several times over the things that God did for them. I actually lost track of the number of times I was moved to tears. But Unsung Hero is not just a tearjerker. It’s a story of faith, hope, and love of family. And what God can do in our lives. … So many things happened to knock them down. A health scare, hospital bills, no vehicle, depression, among others. The whole time, the family prayed, worked, and stuck together.

Adam R. Holz of Plugged In calls the family’s story “quietly remarkable,” saying the “warts and all” approach to David’s struggles gives Unsung Hero a feeling of refreshing realism. Holz says: 

In some ways, the saga of this Australian family’s sojourn in the United States, strangers in a strange land, is an archetypal Christian movie, with a pure Hollywood ending to boot: The underdogs win, persevering through a seemingly unending series of unfortunate, Job-like events that might’ve capsized the faith of other families. In the end, Rebecca St. James launches her triumphant career. Redemption, hope and beauty win the day… But Unsung Hero is no airbrushed hagiography of the Smallbone family. Their path to beauty has been fraught with jagged, startling, even ugly brokenness.

The Christian movie review site Movieguide writes that Unsung Hero delivers in a big way. The Smallbones’ story is compelling, and all of the actors turn in impressive performances. The review continues: 

Unsung Hero is a powerful story of faith and family. The saga of a large family uprooted, experiencing culture shock, and seeking to work together toward a common goal is compelling. The filmmakers tell the story with lots of sincerity and heart. The acting is very good with singer songwriter, Joel Smallbone, of For King and Country fame, turning in a convincing performance as his father, David. Indeed, all the family members are well portrayed, They all have their own unique affinities. The music throughout Unsung Hero is fitting for both the low and high points of the family’s journey, as is the writing.

While Unsung Hero isn’t to the liking of all of the critics, it sounds like those hitting the theater to see a story about a family’s faith and perseverance won’t be disappointed. The movie will be on the big screen starting Friday, April 26, and be sure to check out our 2024 movie release calendar to see what else is coming soon to theaters. 

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