Harley Wallen may be known as one of indie films’ underrated filmmakers. Having delved mainly in action, sci-fi, and horror, he returns to the family film genre with this sequel to Bennett’s Song.
Two families, the Bennetts and the Songs, have come together thanks to the marriage of Cole Bennett and Susan Song. The couple have adopted many children of various backgrounds but finally, they are gathering up for the birth of their first child. Pearl, one of the adopted kids, is an aspiring musician who has a crush on fellow musician Logan. Pearl, along with her brothers and sisters, hang out at St. Matthew’s Community Center.
However, St. Matthew’s, run by Pearl’s deaf brother Adam, is being threatened to shut down thanks in part to one of the building’s owners, Aidan Neville. Aidan wants to tear the building down to make more money off through gentrification. Meanwhile, Susan begins to suspect that Cole is having an affair. When the family gets together to hatch a plan to save the school by way of a concert, secrets are revealed, and revelations are inevitable. Soon enough, the family will do whatever it takes to save the community center and ensure they have a wonderful Christmas.
You have to hand it to filmmaker Harley Wallen. One of the top underrated filmmakers of our generation, Wallen surprised audiences with his 2018 film Bennett’s Song¸ which deviated from the action-inspired genre we are used to seeing. In time for the holidays, it was time for Wallen and writer/producer Nancy Oeswein to bring back the Bennetts and the Songs. And there are many surprises in this film.
Many of the cast reunite for this film and adds some new cast members, notably Corbin Bernsen as the film’s central antagonist. An unscrupulous businessman in the form of devious Aiden Neville, Bernsen chews up the villainy. Not only is he planning to shut down the community center, but we soon learn that he has practically stolen his nice brother’s fiancée, Tania, played by Wallen’s wife (and frequent co-star) Kaiti Wallen. The character of Paul, played by Fred Buchalter, seems like a pushover and it takes some heavy motivation in the form of a prank that only inspires Paul to do what’s right and not get pushed around by his brother.
Meanwhile, the Bennett-Song family shows their strength with Mr. Belding himself, Dennis Haskins, leading the way. Calhoun Koenig’s Pearl is the heart of the film as well as she leads the charge for the concert all while attempting to reconcile her estranged friendship with bestie Stefani, who is in a volatile relationship with controlling boyfriend Robert. Meanwhile, we see Cole and Susan’s marriage get tested when Susan suspects Cole of having an affair shortly after he accepts doing a charity auction for his brother. The funniest scene is Susan’s reaction when all is revealed.
A Bennett Song Holiday is heartwarming and will make you root for the extended family. Harley Wallen continues to prove himself as one of indie films’ talented filmmakers.
WFG RATING: A-
An Autumn Moon and Painted Creek Production. Director: Harley Wallen. Producer: Nancy Oeswein. Writer: Nancy Oeswein. Cinematography: Alex Gasperatto. Editing: Fred Mossman.
Cast: Dennis Haskins, Corbin Bernsen, Calhoun Koenig, Harley Wallen, Aphrodite Nikolovski, Bryce Xavier, James Caverly, Fred Buchalter, Kaiti Wallen, Victoria Mullen, Morgan Nimmo, Evan Keoshian, Dennis Marin, Angelina Danielle Cama, Kyle Patrick