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On-Line Review by Christian Leopold Shea:


(c) 2001 by Christian Leopold Shea. All rights reserved.

Teen heart-throb Phillip Van Dyke (now Phillip Glenn Van Dyke, please note), stars as Timmy in Eric Tetrault's digi-flick, The Innocents Mission. (Almost) convinced by his friend Mark (Craig Hauer, perhaps best known for recurring appearances on "Baywatch") that if they don't "get laid" during their freshman year of high school, they will both be virgins for life, Timmy sets out with Mark on a mission of sexual conquest -- or at least a valiant effort to get to "first base."

Phillip Van Dyke, a headshot from his home page.

While pondering the possibilities open to them, Timmy and Mark are introduced to the new girl at school, Ramona (newcomer Gabby Gillette), but are foiled in their plan to become her tour guides at school by snobby Vicki ("with an 'i,' not 'y,'" played by Elyse Rogers, also a newcomer to acting). Undaunted, the boys follow Vicki home as she escorts Ramona (Ramona will look better dressed in Prada, Vicki has determined), only to be stymied by Vicki's adament refusal to let them visit her house. Somewhat flattered by the attention of the boys, Ramona invites the other three to her house.

To Vicki's horror, Ramona's house is an old, rambling, squallid mess, which, to Mark and and Timmy's chagrin, is also infested by Ramona's little brother, Jordan (James Schanzer), who has a perverse taste for macabre magic tricks. Unable to cope with the situation, Vicki storms out, leaving Mark at Jordan's mercy, and Ramona at Timmy's.

Their romp is brief, however, cut short by the unexpected return home of Ramona and Jordan's mother, Belinda (Tracy Weisert), and little Garth (Mikey Watson), who exhibits a ferret-like ability to hunt down Timmy and Mark wherever they try to hide. During the efforts to escape from maternal wrath, Jordan reveals something about Ramona to Timmy, and the question immediately arises: just what is the family relationship between the residents of this run-down old house. -- Are they even related to each other? If the story were set in Faulkner country, we would know that something peculiar just had to be going on in any house that was as much a Gothic wreck as is Belinda's, but this story is set in Los Angeles, not in some backcountry bayou.

Before Timmy can ask any further questions, Jordan reveals an escape route to the boys and, at Ramona's urging, they leave, but not before one parting moment between Timmy and Ramona.

The Innocents Mission is what writer-director Tetrault refers to as "a distillation" of a feature-length script which he has written, a short film culled from what was intended to be a much longer work. Based upon this reviewer's two viewings of The Innocents Mission, I can safely say that it is worth watching in its own right (look for it at film festivals or -- if you're lucky -- one of those PBS or cable television programs which air short films in an anthology format), but if Tetrault succeeds in having a feature-length version made of this project, it will definitely be worth watching.

The cast of The Innocents Mission is fresh and charming, and they obviously went into the project with gusto, based on its merits. (Van Dyke, for instance, who has no lack of work as an actor, volunteered to play Timmy during the last days of a vaction he was enjoying before returning to work as Noah Beznick in "Noah Knows Best".) Look for more of these fine young performers in the future, and definitely look for a screening of The Innocents Mission.

With the rise in theater ticket prices and the growing international audience of our page, our old NW2: Not Worth $2 (U. S. dollars) to W8: Worth $8 rating scale has become less useful than previously, so, in line with the scale used by the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) we have adopted a scale of 1 star to 10 stars, with "1 Star" being a VERY bad movie, and "10 Stars" being a movie classic. Our On-Line Reviewer, however, has gone where IMDb has never gone before: he has added a score of Zero for those movies which are so bad that they are not even good "camp" -- movies so bad that not even "Mystery Science Theater 3000" could could make them worth watching.

On this scale, anything rated "7 Stars" or above is definitely worth the cost of a theater ticket, "8 Stars" is worth standing in line to buy a ticket, "9 Stars" is worth standing in line in a driving rain rainstorm or severe heatwave or moderate windstorm to buy a ticket, and "10 Stars" is a movie worth driving hundreds of miles to go see -- at least in Dr. Shea's own opinion. Accordingly,

The Innocents Mission is a 6 Star movie.

Track it down at some film festival and see it!

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