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Roxann Dawson
Chrissy Metz, Josh Lucas, Topher Grace
Writing Credits:
Grant Nieporte

When her 14-year-old son drowns in a lake, a faithful mother prays for him to come back from the brink of death and be healed.

Box Office:
$14 million.
Opening Weekend:
$11,282,333 on 2824 Screens.
Domestic Gross

Rated PG.

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
English DTS-HD MA 7.1
English Descriptive Audio
Spanish Dolby 5.1
French Dolby 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 116 min.
Price: $34.98
Release Date: 7/16/2019
• Audio Commentary with Director Roxann Dawson and Producer DeVon Franklin
• “A Tapestry of Miracles” Featurette
• Deleted Scene
• “Trapped in Icy Waters” Featurette
• Gallery
• Trailer and Previews
• DVD Copy


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Breakthrough [Blu-Ray] (2019)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 14, 2019)

Based on a true story, 2019’s Breakthrough takes us to Missouri, where we meet the Smith family. Married couple Brian (Josh Lucas) and Joyce (Chrissy Metz) live with John (Marcel Ruiz), a 14-year-old Guatemalan kid they adopted.

When he and friends play on a semi-frozen lake, John falls through the ice and drowns. This leaves him dead for nearly an hour.

As John barely clings to life in a hospital, Joyce refuses to give up hope. She uses her faith and prayer as a tool to restore John’s health.

Is it a spoiler to say that John recovers? Maybe, but not much of one, as a movie like this seems unlikely to conclude with John in a casket – no one makes an inspiring film about a kid who dies at the end.

This inevitability means Breakthrough offers a tale that potentially works due to the journey, not the destination. The question becomes whether or not this trek will satisfy.

I freely admit that I view faith-based movies with a skeptical eye. That’s mainly because most films that confront that subject do so from a wholly credulous viewpoint with no real room for subtlety.

This means these flicks tend toward a relentlessly mawkish take on the topic. There’s no opportunity for interpretation, and they can feel more like one-dimensional melodrama than anything else.

Though I hoped for more, this attitude pervaded the superficial Breakthrough, and one can expect a lot of content that leans toward borderline propaganda as well. Too many faith-themed stories work desperately to convince the viewer how cool the Christian faith is, and that leads to pointless scenes such as one in Breakthrough where we see a Jesus-praising pop band at a service.

Sequences like that make me think films such as Breakthrough attempt to bring new folks into the fold, but instead, this sort of work really feels more like the proverbial preaching to the choir. Rather than attempt the kind of substance and nuance that might intrigue those on the fence, Breakthrough follows the most unquestioning, one-dimensional path possible in its attempt to reaffirm faith.

I guess that’s not the worst concept in the world, but Breakthrough dances perilously close to propaganda – and not very good propaganda at that. This feels way more like a cheap TV movie than something that made it to multiplexes.

Going into this review, I hoped I could approach Breakthrough solely on its cinematic merits and not involve myself in the religious elements. However, faith so pervades the film that this becomes impossible, as the movie exists solely as a vehicle for its core beliefs.

That’s where Breakthrough fails, as it offers a banal, cookie-cutter view of faith. It considers no possibilities other than miracles and lacks any form of nuance.

Viewing Breakthrough as a film separate from the religious elements, it lacks compelling drama, a shocking fact given the nature of the material. Whether due to prayer or science or whatever, we find the story of a kid who survived against all the odds – shouldn’t that pack a strong emotional punch?

Breakthrough seems surprisingly dull, mainly because it overplays everything and lacks any depth. The characters seem thin and uninspired, and Metz turns Joyce into an annoying presence.

Pompous, arrogant, pushy and self-righteous, Joyce becomes unpleasant much of the time, and Metz does nothing to bring charm to the character. Granted, I don’t know how much she could’ve improved the role as written, as the script sticks Metz with some eye-rolling scenes.

For instance, when a specialist (Dennis Haysbert) discusses John’s grim prognosis, Joyce lectures him about how he needs to “be the best” – and oddly, the doctor seems to use this as a cue. Did the physician plan to half-ass his treatment until Joyce told him to work harder?

In addition, the basic premise seems problematic on a theological basis. As presented here, God seemed more than content to let John die but then changed course because a middle-aged woman got mad and screamed? Seriously?

During its finale, Breakthrough actually flirts with some of the more thought-provoking issues. One of John’s teachers questions why God helped the boy but not her now-deceased husband, and John undergoes taunts from peers due to his “sainted” status.

Just as soon as the film introduces these concepts, though, it abandons them. It barely addresses the real ramifications of events as it barrels toward its inevitable conclusion.

Breakthrough attracted some semi-name talent, but I have no clue what brought them to this stinker. The film delivers overwrought, underbaked melodrama that never connects.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B-/ Bonus C+

Breakthrough appears in an aspect ratio of 2.39:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This turned into a largely appealing presentation.

Sharpness usually satisfied, with only a smattering of soft shots in a few interiors. Instead, most of the movie seemed accurate and well-defined.

The image lacked shimmering or jaggies, and it also demonstrated no edge haloes. Print flaws remained absent as well.

In terms of palette, Breakthrough emphasized a mix of teal and amber. These hues didn’t dazzle but they felt appropriate for the story at hand.

Blacks looked dark and dense, while shadows felt smooth and concise. I thought we got a well-rendered transfer.

A dialogue-heavy affair, the DTS-HD MA 7.1 soundtrack of Breakthrough lacked much breadth to its soundscape. Music showed good stereo presence and some scenes – mainly related to the accident or sports – boasted a bit of involvement, but not a lot added to the sonic experience.

Audio quality satisfied, with dialogue that came across as natural and concise. Music showed nice range and warmth.

Effects didn’t have much to do, but they stayed accurate and lacked distortion. Again, this wasn’t a dynamic mix, but I thought it suited the story.

As we head to extras, we open with an audio commentary from director Roxann Dawson and producer DeVon Franklin. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific look at story and characters, cast and performances, music, photography, sets and locations, and related subjects.

Man, what an awful commentary! Every once in a while, Franklin and Dawson manage to let an actual filmmaking insight materialize.

However, production info remains rare, as the participants usually prefer to ladle out praise for the film and all involved. They also go silent a lot of the time. Between the dead air and the happy talk, this ends up as a poor commentary.

Called A Tapestry of Miracles, we get a 25-minute, 31-second program. It features Franklin, Dawson, executive producers Stephen Curry and Pastor Sam Rodriguez, Joyce Smith, John Smith, screenwriter Grant Nieporte, Pastor Jason Noble, tank coordinator Jon Stephenson, special effects coordinator Tony Kenny, underwater camera operator Braden Haggerty, musicians Lecrae and Phil Wickham, music producer Kirk Franklin, and actors Chrissy Metz, Josh Lucas, Taylor Mosby, Marcel Ruiz, Topher Grace, Sam Trammell, and Mike Colter.

“Miracles” views the real events and the tale’s path to the screen, story and characters, cast and performances, sets and locations, stunts, and music. A couple of minor insights emerge, but most of “Miracles” exists to tell us how amazing everything about the movie is. It’s tedious and uninformative.

Another featurette, Trapped in Icy Waters goes for six minutes, five seconds and looks at the real events behind the film. It views the subject matter from a fairly one-sided POV, but it’s interesting to hear from the people involved.

A Deleted Scene entitled “Carry My Soul” goes for three minutes, 41 seconds. It shows a musical performance that would’ve occurred late in the film. It’s pretty forgettable and would’ve bogged down the finale.

We can watch the scene with or without commentary from Dawson and Franklin. They tell us why it got cut and also praise it a lot. Their comments tend toward a little too much happy talk but they offer useful basics.

A Gallery includes 30 shots. It mixes images from the film, pictures from the set and publicity stills. It becomes a mediocre collection.

The disc opens with ads for The Kid Who Would Be King, Hidden Figures and The Miracle Season. We also get a trailer for Breakthrough.

A second disc provides a DVD copy of Nreakthrough. It includes the same extras as the Blu-ray.

Sappy and sanctimonious, Breakthrough exists as a piece of faith-based propaganda and not much more. Despite the natural drama of the story, the film treats the material in such a simplistic, melodramatic manner that it becomes a chore to watch. The Blu-ray comes with very good picture, decent audio and mediocre supplements. Even the target audience should reject this thin gruel.

Viewer Film Ratings: 1 Stars Number of Votes: 4
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