Love's Enduring Promise (March 30/05)
Love's Enduring Promise continues the story of Marty and Clark Claridge, the mismatched couple who found themselves falling for each other in Love Comes Softly. And just like the original, Love's Enduring Promise works despite an overwhelming sense of wholesomeness; there's absolutely nothing gritty or cutting-edge about this story (it almost makes Little House on the Prairie look edgy by comparison).
The film picks up around ten years after the original, and Marty (Katherine Heigl) and Clark (Dale Midkiff) have long-since settled into their marriage and now spend their days farming and taking care of their two small children. Also in the household is Missy (January Jones), who is now an adult and working as a teacher. Missy finds herself being courted by two suitors, the exceedingly wealthy Grant (Mackenzie Astin) and a hard-working but poor man named Willie (Logan Bartholomew). But when Clark finds himself fighting for his life after an accident involving an axe, Missy must abandon her students and potential beaus in order to help out on the farm.
While Love's Enduring Promise has many of the same elements that made its predecessor so engaging, the film's not quite as captivating primarily because the focus has been taken away from Marty and Clark. Instead, Missy receives the lion's share of the movie's screen time, as she attempts to choose between Grant and Willie (there's also a subplot involving Willie's fractured relationship with his father). As effective as Jones is in the role (Astin and Bartholomew are also quite good), it's hard not to wish that the film had spent a little more time with Marty and Clark (particularly since Marty spent the majority of Love Comes Softly angry at Clark).
Nevertheless, it's hard not to get wrapped up in the various storylines contained within Love's Enduring Promise (there's just something oddly compelling about the film's complete lack of cynicism). Director Michael Landon Jr. (who also helmed the original) effectively paints a vivid picture of life in the 19th century, something that's assisted by Maximo Munzi's lush cinematography. Though there's no evidence that any further installments in this series are forthcoming, these characters are certainly intriguing enough to warrant at least one more sequel (novelist Janette Oke has written countless books revolving around the Claridges).