An overly sentimental social drama, ORIGINAL INTENT has its heart right out on its sleeve, wet and dripping.
Treacly and often amateurish, the homily-cum-story centers on Matthew Cameron (Jay Richardson), a prosperous lawyer with a happy family and affluent yuppie friends, all obsessed with food, fitness and finance. One day Matthew's old college buddy Alex (Kurt Fuller) asks him to aid a central LA
homeless shelter, the Mission of Hope, in danger of demolition from dastardly developer Theodore Daniels (Vince Edwards), a one-note Simon LeGree who utters lines like "I don't want one brick of that building standing by this time next week!" Matthew gets his consciousness raised by visiting the
sanctuary and meeting its noble operator Ben Reid (Robert Do'Qui) and a beaming assembly of poor folks, battered women, vagrant vets and perky ghetto kids. But the film's also a spiritual soap opera, as Matthew's fight for the Mission of Hope precipitates soul-testing crises at work and at home.
Matthew's wife Jessica (Candy Clark) loses her job and son Steven (Cameron Macarelli) lies comatose all because of dad's preoccupation with the homeless. "This is so unbelievable!" laments Jessica, bringing a richly unintentional laugh. The maddening thing about ORIGINAL INTENT is that it
threatens to get interesting, only to backslide into ham-handed melodrama and simplistic politics. For instance, Matthew goes overboard in expunging his white-liberal guilt, forcing Jessica to volunteer for the soup kitchen and taking a personable black street kid Bobby (Patrick Malone) under his
own roof when there's no room at the shelter. But Bobby disappears with the Camerons' luxury electronics, and Matthew throws a childish fit over the stolen video games, right in the midst of Ben's revival meeting. Then the hero mopes around haunted by flashback voices and the pic's
gotta-hear-it-to-believe-it theme song. "...My dreams were stashed into some legal file/until I saw the eyes of a homeless child." One may rest assured that there's a happy ending thanks to the negative publicity the Scrooge-like capitalist villain gets in the media--it's revealed that when not
occupied in crushing the weak he controls an eminently boycottable chain of toy stores.
Writer-director-producer Rob Marcarelli (I DON'T BUY KISSES ANYMORE) has little evident use for subtlety. He does, however, have a lot of charitably inclined celebrity associates in guest cameos, notably longtime homeless campaigner Martin Sheen, here staring into space as a basket case dubbed
"Homeless Joe." Kris Kristofferson and Cindy Pickett make their contribution as indigents, Bruce and Linda Thompson Jenner as rich types. Leading-man Jay Richardson, a stalwart in B- and Z-grade movies, copes admirably with the script deficiencies, but the most potentially intriguing role in the
whole thing goes to Kurt Fuller as Alex, the avatar of social activism who gets the plot rolling. Instead of the holy do-gooder one expects, he's pitched as a comic-relief buffoon, more class clown than Mother Theresa. He's cloying, obnoxious and frankly dislikeable, but it's an energetic and
challenging creation compared to the cardboard saintliness of Ben and the other shelter helpers. Of course, Alex drops out of the narrative after his initial appearance.
Marcarelli, a prominent member of the Malibu Presbyterian Church, had a devil of a time finding a domestic theatrical distributor for ORIGINAL INTENT. The preachy production was finished in 1990, but never got to the big screen, loitering until 1992 before going straight to home video.
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- Released: 1992
- Rating: PG
- Review: An overly sentimental social drama, ORIGINAL INTENT has its heart right out on its sleeve, wet and dripping. Treacly and often amateurish, the homily-cum-story centers on Matthew Cameron (Jay Richardson), a prosperous lawyer with a happy family and afflue… (more)