Chrissy Metz has a big-screen ‘Breakthrough’

Marcel Ruiz and Chrissy Metz in “Breakthrough”

Movies that are steeped in faith have done quite well at the box office in recent years, and the latest of them – the true story “Breakthrough” – has elements that suggest the makers of such films want to reach out to the widest audience possible.

One such aspect that’s quite clear is the casting of Chrissy Metz, a star of one of television’s most popular shows these days, “This Is Us.” She plays a woman whose adopted son falls through the ice on a lake and, after an extended time submerged, may not survive. However, when his mother arrives at the hospital and offers prayers over him, he revives and then recovers with the help of an ace medical team.

The question of religion vs. science then arises, and “Breakthrough” handles it admirably, making sufficient points for both sides. Survivor’s guilt is another theme that’s touched upon. Roxann Dawson, an actress who‘s done lots of TV directing but has her own breakthrough into moviemaking here, takes a level-headed approach that services the story and the actors well.

Josh Lucas (as Metz’s husband), Topher Grace (as a rather unconventional clergyman), Mike Colter (as a first responder) and Dennis Haysbert (as the chief medic treating the teen) also give the picture plenty of cred in the performing arena, and Marcel Ruiz is quite good as the young survivor who turns out to be a walking miracle.

The marketing of previous pictures in this genre largely has been directed toward church groups, and understandably so. The results have been potent, with the films typically scoring solid results financially, especially in the early weeks of their runs. With “Breakthrough,” 20th Century Fox very visibly has expanded the approach.

That also is understandable, what with having a very marketable star in Metz … something that had to have been planned from the start, though that calculation takes nothing away from the credit the actress deserves for her work here. The fact that she is so universally accessible a performer gives “Breakthrough” much of the relatability it can use as it tackles some major issues as relevant to those who aren’t religious as to those who are.

“Breakthrough” is admittedly front-loaded with emotion, but the movie is done so well, it ultimately earns all the feels it inspires.

(A Hollywood history note: How much Fox delves into such territory in the future is a question mark, since its Fox 2000 production unit – which made “Breakthrough” – is destined to be closed in the wake of the parent company’s recent purchase by Disney.)

Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin has decades of experience covering the television and movie businesses, winning Tribune Media Services’ Crown Jewel Award in 2008 for his performance in the company. Over those many years of interviewing and writing, he has spoken with everyone from Robert De Niro and John Travolta to Paul McCartney and Tony Bennett … from Meryl Streep and Julie Andrews to Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood.

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