HOLY JOE, 1999
Starring John Ritter, Meredith Baxter, David Tom, Joanna Garcia, Kayla Campbell, Mark de la Cruz, Terrence Currier, Linda Purl
A disillusioned religious leader in a small American town finds inspiration after being rescued by a mysterious being.
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Bought surprisingly cheap with another movie found on the other side of the DVD, there was only reason for watching this film; John Ritter. The much-missed and highly regarded actor who sadly passed away in 2003, I reckon that I would watch a movie of him just sitting in a chair. Even that type of action would be decent due to Mr Ritter’s qualities. Not knowing that Meredith Baxter appears alongside Ritter, I sure anticipated this film greatly one evening before watching it. Boy, how I was right.
Joe Cass (Ritter) is your typical average, religious leader and genuine family man in small town America. Population of thousands but a congregation of dozens, Joe feels down on his luck. Not that he isn’t a popular guy, Joe seems to know each and every member of the community he serves. He even becomes friendly with the Mexican members of the town he watches over who work their backsides off in order to earn a crust, speaks their language and even finds the time in becoming a volunteer fireman. Although he does find popularity in his congregation, his family of a wife and two children is not exactly The Waltons and are just as dysfunctional as the next. Joe believes the world really has dealt him the crappiest of hands.
That is all to change when he runs into a burning building during what should have been a routinely dealt with fire. Being the great guy he is, Joe runs into the burning structure hoping to save the child who is trapped inside. Finding the child, he runs towards him but sees no way out. He and the child are stuck inside the building. There simply isn’t any way out. That is until an unknown fireman helps them out of the building to safety.
Onto the next day and Joe wants to darn well know who the heck it was in that building who saved him. But no-one seems to know. Soon, everyone in town starts believing that Joe had a holy experience and was in fact saved by God. Everyone does, but not Joe. Will he ever change his mind?
Although the script can be described as a tad cliché at times, it is John Ritter himself who makes this movie. It seems that each and every role he has played is both convincing and professional. Whether it is the caring family man in the first two “Problem Child” movies, to a wife beater in “Unforgivable”, you simply believe in Ritter due to his immense and much-missed talent.
It has to be said that Ritter is not the only one who impresses here, but Meredith Baxter as well. Her portrayal of doting wife Annie is quite similar to several other roles of hers, but meets the required expectations which were set down in her outstanding performance of Maggie in the criminally underrated 1996 television movie “After Jimmy”. At first, she doubts her husbands’ reaction to what he experienced but over time she is won over by what she sees. The mark of a fine actress who deserves a feature film appearance or two.
I have no idea why some people have a deep hatred for television movies. Yes, I agree that some are tripe and downright awful, but once in a while a complete and utter gem comes along which blows away the crowd. “Holy Joe” is certainly a prime example of the latter, and is a movie which must surely be known to the wider public in honour of John Ritter’s achievements, as any belated recognition is surely deserved.