Length: 102 minutes
Release Date: October 11, 2013
Directed by: Brad J. Silverman
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars
“Grace Unplugged” is a coming-of-age tale that will inspire young people to follow their dreams while living a life for God. On a race to leave behind the only life she’s ever known, Grace Trey (AJ Michalka) aspires to leave her small hometown in Alabama and her Christian upbringing to make a name for herself in the music industry. Armed with only her guitar and her voice, this prodigal child steps out into the big world and learns some hard life lessons along the way.
Johnny Trey (James Denton ) is a washed-up pop musician. He’s a one-hit wonder who once achieved a period of fame, bright lights, and super stardom. Instead of continuing with his relentless manager, Frank Mostin (Kevin Pollack), Johnny is saved by the grace of God and decides to return to his hometown to join a church and lead worship services.
Johnny and his wife Michelle (Shawnee Smith) have a little girl named Grace, who they raise in the church. She spends her childhood performing alongside her father during church services, and he teaches her how to play guitar. As she gets older, Grace begins rebelling against her dad by wanting to assert her own style in her music. She and her father have many arguments about how he wants her to play the music, which is either as it is written or as her father suggests.
Tired of living for others and singing songs only about God, Grace begs her father for a shot at fame and fortune. Johnny insists that a life in show business is not all it’s cracked up to be and tells her that her place is in the church. Johnny’s former manager, Mossy, shows up at their home and tries to offer Johnny another chance to make it big. He turns it down, but when Grace hears about it, she decides to take it. She records a copy of her father’s old hit and makes her escape to Los Angeles. After she is gone, Johnny tries his best to convince Grace to come home, but she is 18 years old, and there’s nothing he can do about it. It’s hard for him to watch his little girl grow up in an industry he knows can mean trouble.
Grace becomes an overnight sensation. Her music quickly climbs to the top of the charts, and she beings to fill arenas. Through the process, she experiences heartbreak and discovers how lonely a life of fame can be. She learns that you can’t trust everyone who claims to be on your side, and she also discovers the importance of surrounding yourself with the right people.
At a point when her entire life seems to be crumbling, an intern at the record company where she records tries to convince her to get her life right with God again rather than continuing to suffer through sadness and uncertainty. The choice is clearly hers, and it is one that not even her parents or her manager can help make for her. Her parents and friends are hoping she will soon discover that some things in life mean nothing if you turn your back on your faith.
Michalka does an excellent job portraying the quintessential 18-year-old girl next door in “Grace Unplugged.” She began acting and singing at the young age of nine, and she is best noted for her roles in the 2011 suspense film “Super 8,” the 2009 film “Lovely Bones,” and the popular Disney flick “Secretariat.” When not acting, Michalka, a popular artist in the duo Aly and AJ, sings alongside her sister Aly and is a platinum-selling recording artist . She sings many of the songs in the film’s soundtrack along with popular artists such as Chris Tomlin and TobyMac. James Denton, who plays Grace’s dad Johnny is probably best known for the role of Mike Delfino in the popular hit television Drama “Desperate Housewives.” No stranger to parental film roles, Denton was born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee, where both he and his father were involved in Community Theater.
The entire film focuses on the choices you make along the road to discovering who you really are. Grace must learn to adapt to the life she has chosen for herself on the road by rejecting her faith or by turning back to God and living the life her parents believe she was meant for. The backbone of the film centers on religion and how difficult it is to choose between the right thing and what we think we really want.
Watch AJ Michalka in the trailer for “Grace Unplugged.”