‘WWJD II: The Woodcarver’ is a corny Christian movie that means well

Courtesy of Vivendi Entertainment

John Ratzenberger, the talented actor from Cheers and every Pixar film, does a yeoman’s job of trying to save the paint-by-numbers Christian film, WWJD II: The Woodcarver. His efforts are not totally wasted. The stand-alone-sequel is heartfelt, well-intentioned and brimming with positivity, but as an engaging movie, it features far too many cliches and “aww-shucks” moments.

Ratzenberger plays the title character (the woodcarver, not Jesus Christ), a cheerful man who follows the guidance of his savior. Ernest Otto is devout and content, but that doesn’t mean everything has worked out perfectly in his life. Both his son and wife have died, and he lives a somewhat lonely life in his beautiful cabin in the woods. He’s a traditional woodcarver, preferring to use his bare hands rather than the cheap pre-fabricated supplies most others use.

We first meet Ernest after one of his proudest projects is vandalized by a local teenager. The First Baptist Church in town, which features Ernest’s intricate craftsmanship, is no match for Matthew Stevenson (Dakota Daulby, in his screen debut). The errant youth breaks the stained-glass windows, spray paints “LIAR” in big red letters on the side of the church and destroys some of Ernest’s honest work. This gets him in trouble with his school, the local minister and his parents (Woody Jeffreys and Nicole Oliver). The reason for the outburst is because the boy’s parents are on the verge of a divorce.

Ernest, after assessing the situation, determines that this family needs to follow the edict: WWJD, or what would Jesus do? He takes Matthew under his wing and begins to rebuild the damaged church. He also offers advice to the hot-headed Mr. Stevenson and his soon-to-be-ex wife. Like Jesus himself, the woodcarver teaches them the power of forgiveness, prayer and respect. Ratzenberger gives as much advice as he did on Cheers, only there’s no glass of beer in front of him.

John Ratzenberger and Dakota Daulby in ‘The Woodcarver’ — Photo courtesy of Vivendi Entertainment

The movie, written by Joe Nasser, Kevan Otto and Thomas Makowski, means well, and it’s hard to fault a film that tries so strenuously to convey its message. The acting is mostly acceptable, especially from Ratzenberger. Daulby holds his own, although he shows his inexperience in some of the more dramatic scenes.

But even if everyone were on top of their game, the script doesn’t allow for much subtlety. Every few minutes, characters stop their natural trains of thought and begin semi-preaching about their values and connection to God. There’s nothing wrong with an effusive spirit over one’s faith, but when it materializes in manufactured sayings and phrases, everything feels like it’s trying too hard.

The Woodcarver will delight those audience members looking for an easy film that tells a family-approved Christian message. Like an after-school special from the 1980s, the movie lives and breathes its entire thesis for 91 minutes. For those foolish enough to expect anything less than a total commitment to Christian idealism, the movie will be a bore. It doesn’t hold up in the dramatic department, but that doesn’t mean the movie fails on all fronts. As far as its none-too-subtle subject matter: The message is heard loud and clear.

By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com

  • WWJD II: The Woodcarver

  • 2012

  • Directed by Thomas Makowski

  • Written by Joe Nasser, Kevan Otto and Makowski

  • Running time: 91 minutes

  • Rated PG

  • Rating: ★★☆☆

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His articles have appeared in The New York Times, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at Time.com, among other publications. E-mail him at john@hollywoodsoapbox.com

9 thoughts on “‘WWJD II: The Woodcarver’ is a corny Christian movie that means well

  • July 6, 2012 at 10:50 am
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    Nice movie, but a poor copy to the Sidney Poitiier Last Brickmaker in America. There was less religion and a better in Mr. Poitier. The writer probably spent one afternoon reworking the script.

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    • September 8, 2012 at 1:25 am
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      I saw the movie today and really liked it. Good acting. Good message. Sure, it’s predictable and too “nice” for some. It’s very hard to find non-animated movies with high standards that you can watch with your kids. We all enjoyed it. Not surprised that Hollywood Soapbox doesn’t rate it highly.

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  • October 30, 2012 at 9:06 pm
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    Just saw this on Netflix with my husband and kids. We LOVED this movie. It was a great story, and well-made. Too bad you gave it only 2 stars: you must subscribe to the Holly-weird idea that a movie doesn’t have to be full of foul language, violence, illicit sex and perversion to be good.

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    • October 30, 2012 at 9:07 pm
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      EDIT to above:
      . . . that a movie MUST be full of foul language . . . . to be good.

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  • November 27, 2012 at 2:34 pm
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    Dear Karen and J Davis,

    Why the negativity toward Hollywood Soapbox? The review is respectful toward the film and its creators, and at no time does the reviewer suggest the movie would be better with more “foul language, violence, illicit sex and perversion.”

    You should be ashamed.

    GW Hop

    Reply
  • August 30, 2013 at 12:17 am
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    This is an excellent film, and there’s nothing corny about it at all, so thumbs down on your review. Why do reviewers always mark down movies about faith?…it’s predictable and shows their prejudice. Anyway, I’d highly recommend this touching and inspirational film. It’s one of the best among Christian films in this genre.

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  • January 5, 2014 at 8:38 pm
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    This is a review of the reviewer. This is a mediocre reviewer trying to be clever and appreciative of the movie, but not committed to the values presented in the movie. I give him 2 stars on his insight. Two stars on being clever. So many films have no value whatsoever and are given great reviews . This movie got the attention of my son who has made some bad choices in life. He is re evaluating his decisions based on this movie. Why does anyone give a crap about the shallow opinions of this reviewer, or reviewers in general. I wish I was paid money for the shallower aspects of my youthful opinions.

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  • December 13, 2014 at 7:14 pm
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    I loved this movie pray there are more of them made GOD IS GOOD ALL THE TIME AND ALL THE TIME GOD IS GOOD!!!!!!!!!!!!:) ♡ ♡ ♡

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  • September 20, 2015 at 3:32 pm
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    I saw the movie “The Last Brickmaker” and this movie is a copy of it, didn’t realize writers could say they wrote someone else’s script, only the trade was changed. That being said, I like the movie and it’s message, I’m not surprised at the review bc of the intolerance in this day to Christianity and Jesus in Hollywierd and social media. I am surprised the film critic didn’t point out that it is a remake of The Last Brickmaker.

    Reply

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