Bennett’s Song – A Multi-Layered Drama – Movie Review

Starring Tara Reid (American Pie, Sharknado), Harley Wallen (Into A Dark Mind, Betrayed), Aphrodite Nikolovski (Cut/Print, Answer This!), Dennis Haskins (Saved By The Bell, A Million Ways To Die In The West),  Calhoun Koenig (Moving Parts, Agramon’s Gate), and Victoria Mullen (Model No. Human, Whiskey Tango), Bennett’s Song is the story of a widower, Sam Bennett (Harley Wallen) and divorcee, Susan Song (Aphrodite Nikolovski) finding love against all odds. Their unconventional romance and a not-so-pleasant next-door neighbour (Tara Reid) throw a wrench in Pearl Song’s (Calhoun Koenig) big music plans.

Bennett’s Song is a new family romantic comedy which follows the relationship between Widower Cole Bennett (Harley Wallen) and single mum Susan Song (Aphrodite Nikolovski), who after coming together realise that they each have seven kids of their own. With a big family and even bigger dreams, they work together to deal with the diversity of a modern family which brings them closer through love, laughter and music.

I knew after watching the trailer for Bennett’s Song it was going to be something different from your traditional family movie and it doesn’t disappoint. With the story of two families coming together with a combined total of 14 kids, the chaotic environment could have easily followed on from films such as Cheaper by the Dozen (2003) as a slapstick comedy. However, thanks to a well-developed script from Nancy Oeswein the film takes an unexpected approach to what you might expect. The multifaceted story focusing more on the relationships and social issues of the family, with the more natural comedy derived from a hilarious script and natural delivery from the cast.

The film looks to tackle some very modern issues. With the adopted children of both Cole and Susan from different ethnicities and backgrounds, this leads to some pre-conceptual views and unmindful racial prejudices. This is only one of the issues which is dealt with in the film, but the execution of a scene in the school where lax attitudes towards a racial slur regarding the family manage to create quite a powerful message.

The film has so many great characters in the film, so it is not surprising that there are a few who I would like to have seen more of. Victoria Mullen is definitely someone who stood out as the confused Grandma Song, who has some brilliantly funny and heart-warming moments with her daughter Susan. Victoria creates an offbeat yet endearing character whose muddled memory often leaves her confused. A lot of the humour is based on this loss of memory, but as the delivery is not done in a cruel or deeming context the comedy actually helps to reflect the touching relationship between the two.

Dennis Haskins seems to resonate in every scene with his warmth and jovial personality, a complete role reversal to the hardened self-centred Mayer which he portrays in the upcoming thriller Into a Dark Mind (2018). For a generation, he may still be fondly remembered for his performance as Mr. Richard Belding in Saved by the Bell (1989-1992), but judging by his recent performances he still has a lot more to come.

Another great supporting performance is from Tara Reid as Stevie Hawkins-White, who against type is perfectly suited as the villain in the film. A controlling and somewhat arrogant neighbour who seems to go out of her way to make it difficult for the family.  The character shows a very different side to what we normally expect from Tara, who seemed to really embellish the opportunity to play the unlikable antagonist.

Bennett's SongIt was a brave decision to have so many kids in one film, but it really paid in Bennett’s Song with the unique quirks and personalities of the children adding to the already talented collective cast. Harley previously said that there was a long audition and rehearsal process for the kids to get it right and this really comes across on screen with the maturity of the performances. With that being said, it is the innocent delivery from some of the younger cast which helps to create some of the films funniest moments.  Calhoun Koenig is one of the younger cast members who really stands out as Pearl Song. Her drive and ambitions to become a singer really help to showcase her abilities in the film both as an actor and a singer.

In addition to directing Harley Wallen also takes the lead in the film as Cole Bennett, who displays enough awkwardness and vulnerability in the early stages of the film to make his character believable. However, it is Aphrodite Nikolovski who really stands out in the film with her captivating and emotional performance as Susan Song. Aphrodite has a natural on-screen chemistry with the cast which becomes the backbone of the film, whether she is embracing the humour with the children (including some embarrassingly cringe-worthy moments with flossy frog), or the more sentimental moments with Cole and Grandma Song.

It is easy to see why Bennett’s Song has resonated so well with audiences so far, because it doesn’t follow the traditional guidelines you would normally expect from a family film.  With a multi-layered story has enough drama to keep you engaged in the characters, whilst the excellent script creates plenty of comedy to keep it entertaining and light-hearted. It is definitely a feelgood movie which leaves you with a smile on your face as the end credits roll.  It may be a huge departure from what you can normally expect from director Harley Wallen, who is known primarily for his contributions to the horror and action-thrillers, but with Bennett’s Song, he proves that he can adapt to the genre and brings with him the ability of really developing the characters.

Following the success of the feedback, there are already plans for a sequel which is due to be filmed later this year. If they are able to replicate the balance between the drama and comedy, I am looking forward to seeing how they will progress with the story going forward.

Bennett’s Song will be available in America from August 14 on DVD and VOD with details of worldwide distribution to follow.

Philip Rogers

Philip Rogers

Published in various websites, Philip is a reviewer who is best known for his interviews and media coverage of independent projects including; films, books, theatre and live events. Always on the lookout for something different to cover!