Matthew (Dakota Daulby) prayed when his parents started arguing, he asked God to stop them from separating as their marriage crumbled. So when the arguing didn’t stop and his dad moved out Matthew took his anger out on the local church building by vandalising it. It is how he comes to meet Ernest Otto (John Ratzenberger), a woodcarver who since his wife died has given up working but who years earlier had created many of the now broken ornate wood panels for the church and who agrees to do so again, taking Matthew under his wing as the young man has to make good for the damage he caused. It is Ernest who encourages Matthew to consider WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) when ever he is faced with a decision and it leads to not only a change in Matthew but a bond forming between Ernest and the teenager. But with the wood production company, who Matthew’s father works for, desperate for a contract to supply the wood for the new Sunday school building, something which Ernest already agreed to do, there is trouble in the air.
Above the title “The Woodcarver” features the letters WWJDII so just in case you are not aware, this is the second movie in the WWJD series which started with “What Would Jesus Do?” in 2010. Good news is that with this not being a follow up sequel you don’t need to have watched “What Would Jesus Do?” to watch “The Woodcarver”. The bad news is that if you are a movie buff you might notice the similarities between “The Woodcarver” and “The Last Brickmaker in America” as they both feature a widow with a dying craft becoming a role model to a troubled teen.
Anyway, on the surface “The Woodcarver” is not overly complex as you have Matthew, an angry teen struggling with his parents fighting and separating, ending up staying with Ernest who himself is feeling lost after the death of his wife. As such we see Matthew and Ernest unsurprisingly bond with Matthew not only learning how to carve wood but how to act respectfully. On that simple level “The Woodcarver” is wholesome family entertainment with nothing offensive about the storyline or dialogue; in fact it is incredibly charming with a nice location adding to the movie’s charm as Ernest has one of those picturesque log homes.
But of course “The Woodcarver” has something else going on as Ernest teaches Matthew to consider the question “What Would Jesus Do?” when faced with decisions and his own anger issues. Now, as this is a wholesome movie the situations are a little on the safe side but in many ways this makes it a good movie for young Christian teens as it should encourage them to think before they make decisions.
There is also another side to “The Woodcarver”, some subtle scenes such as when Matthew’s father opens up to Ernest about what went wrong in his marriage, saying that he was offered a promotion and more money which before he knew it not only lead to him not being home much and the arguments but also saw him stop attending church regularly. In truth you may miss some of the movie’s depth the first time around which is why I say “The Woodcarver” is the sort of movie worth watching at least a second time because behind the simple storyline it has some insightful moments.
Now the main reason why “The Woodcarver” works is because of the Christian based, wholesome nature of the story but there is no denying that John Ratzenberger as Ernest Otto plays his part in the movie’s appeal. Ratzenberger makes Ernest a salt of the earth character; wise but not full of himself, sympathetic, uncomplicated, a man of his word, and someone who takes pleasure in the simple things in life such as a job done well. What it means is that Ernest is the sort of character which many of us would like to have in our lives not just to turn to when we need him but to be there for when he needs help even though he wouldn’t ask.
I will finish this review with my favourite quote from “The Woodcarver”, and this is again another one of those movies which features some wonderful quotes:
Never underestimate the power of belief combined with hard work – Ernest Otto
Cast: John Ratzenberger, Dakota Daulby, Woody Jeffreys, Nicole Oliver, Anthony Harrison, Stephen E. Miller, Tom McBeath, Merrilyn Gann
Director: Terry Ingram
Length: 96 mins
You can buy The Woodcarver from Amazon by clicking here