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Mainstream - The Incredible Mrs. Ritchie

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The Incredible Mrs. Ritchie
Gena Rowlands, Kevin Zegers, James Caan
Made for TV 2003
Peace Arch Home Entertainment
101 minutes

The Incredible Mrs. Ritchie won a daytime Emmy award and was nominated for a couple more after airing on Showtime. This is your basic feel good coming of age life lesson movie painted in very, very broad strokes. Aside from a really gratuitous Porky's style nudity bit and a scene involving drowning a puppy it would make for decent family fare.

A heavily made-up Gena Rowlands stars as the incredible Mrs. Ritchie, an old lady with a great garden who shelters two mentally challenged kids. When a troubled teenager, Kevin Zegers, steals her purse, his school principal (James Caan) arranges it so he will repay her by working for her in her garden. Through her garden and her love Rowlands makes Charlie (Zegers) a better kid.

The Incredible Mrs. Ritchie is a decent little movie.  Charlie's parents (Cameron Daddo, Leslie Hope) are cardboard villains. The father has a temper, the mother drinks and blames her kids for everything and has them do everything. Charlie is also under the influence of the other bad kid in school. If you can't figure out the conflicts in this family, you are simply not paying attention.

The movie does take a heavy handed while to get Charlie to learn his life lesson or even to start turning the page: It really starts when he moves in with Gena Rowlands. This is when he has to start making choices, some easier than others.

There is an interesting use of time lapse photography to show the garden growing (and suggest this is a magic place). The two mentally challenged residents of Mrs. Ritchie do provide from the odd gentle comic relief. Gena Rowlands is very good as Mrs. Ritchie.

I still do not get part of the ending of The Incredible Mrs. Ritchie. It seems rather forced but there you go. There is also a bit of magic realism involved that surprises the viewer.

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