Take 3: Stowaway Review (Clean Movie Month — #1)

For the first time ever, I am participating in Pure Entertainment Preservation Society’s Clean Movie Month! Every July, participants are encouraged to watch and write about films that were released within the Breen Code era. This era started in 1934 and ended in 1954. On 18 Cinema Lane, I will be reviewing a Breen Code era film every week during this month! These reviews will be released in the chronological order of the film’s premiere. For my first Clean Movie Month review, I have chosen the Shirley Temple film, Stowaway! Earlier this year, I wrote an editorial about my thoughts on all three of Shirley’s films from 1938. As I said in that editorial, my goal is to watch every single Shirley Temple film ever made. So, if I have a chance to watch a Shirley Temple movie that I haven’t seen before, I will definitely make an effort to do that. So, let’s sail away in Clean Movie Month with 1936’s Stowaway!

Stowaway poster
Stowaway poster created by 20th Century Fox. Image found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Film_Poster_for_Stowaway.jpg.

Things I liked about the film:

  • The acting: One of the great things about this movie was Shirley’s performance! Like I said about Shirley’s role, Betsy, in Little Miss Broadway, her role in Stowaway felt like it was created just for her. Not only did this role compliment Shirley’s acting abilities, but it challenged her as an actress. At certain moments in the film, Shirley’s character, Barbara/Ching-Ching speaks Chinese. This means that Shirley had to learn her lines in English and learn a new language that she was probably not familiar with before. Shirley was surrounded by a cast of actors and actresses that were just as talented as her! Everyone’s acting talents were equally showcased in this film, helping each performer receive their moment to shine!


  • The humor: A pleasant aspect of Stowaway was the humor within the story! One of the funniest scenes in this film was when Ching-Ching is trying to find Tommy Randall while wearing a dragon head. What made moments like this so hilarious was the screen-writing. The way that the dialogue and actions were written was not only innocent, but clever as well. An example of this is when Tommy and Ching-Ching are at a restaurant. While ordering food off of a menu that’s written in Chinese, Tommy tells Ching-Ching, “It’s all Greek to me”. She then replies, “But it’s in Chinese”. This type of humor is what made Stowaway an enjoyable story!


  • A unique location: I am not an expert on Shirley Temple’s filmography. But, out of the films that I’m aware of, it seems like most of her movies take place in the United States. Stowaway, however, mostly takes place in China and on a cruise ship. These locations provided a unique look and feel to the overall production. It was interesting to see the Chinese culture playing an influential role within the narrative. The language, music, and even some proverbs could be found in Stowaway. Seeing the various areas of the cruise ship was interesting as well. This backdrop worked really well for the story!
Traditional Chinese dragon image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/design”>Design vector created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

  • A limited amount of musical numbers: Earlier this year, when I talked about Just Around the Corner, I said that there was a limited amount of musical numbers in the movie. This made the story feel drawn out and a little bit longer than intended. Similarly, there was a limited amount of musical numbers in Stowaway. Throughout the whole film, there were four musical numbers. However, the first musical number doesn’t appear in the film until after the first thirty-seven minutes. Personally, I think that the first musical number should have, at least, started at the fifteen-minute mark. That way, the audience could get quickly invested into the musical aspect of the movie.


  • No Chinese influences in the music: I liked how the Chinese locations, as well as the culture, were incorporated into the film! But I was surprised that there were no Chinese influences in Stowaway’s music. Every song that Shirley sang sounded like the typical musical melody, the usual sounds that are found in Shirley’s films. Even though Shirley spoke Chinese in the movie, none of the lyrics were in Chinese. I feel that the creative team behind Stowaway missed a special opportunity to expand the musical horizons of both the studio and the audience. Who knows? Maybe this could have encouraged someone to learn another language.


  • Shirley’s limited involvement in the film: Most of Shirley’s films involve a subplot that allows Shirley’s character to play an important role in the film. While Ching-Ching was a significant character in Stowaway, she didn’t play as big of a role as Shirley’s other characters. It felt like most of the story was about the characters who were adults. In fact, it seemed like Shirley had the least amount of screen-time out of all the performers in the starring cast. While it’s understandable that Shirley was the youngest cast member in this film, it kind of felt like Stowaway wasn’t Shirley’s movie compared to her other titles.
Clean Movie Month banner
Clean Movie Month banner created by Tiffany and Rebekah Brannan from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society. Image found at https://pureentertainmentpreservationsociety.wordpress.com/2019/07/01/cleanmoviemonth85-is-here/.

My overall impression:

For my first Clean Movie Month review, we’re off to a decent start! Stowaway, in my opinion, is better than something like Just Around the Corner. But there are films in Shirley’s filmography that I think are stronger than Stowaway. The most memorable part of this film was the Chinese locations as well as the cruise ship backdrop. They were very unique for a film starring Shirley Temple, especially since most of her films take place in the same continent. The setting of Stowaway provided an interesting component to the story, influencing how the characters interacted with each other and how they accomplished their goals. I can’t say much about the content of the film, since it was approved by the Production Code Administration (as the logo was featured in the bottom left hand corner of the opening credits) and it was released two years after the start of the Breen Code era. It’ll be fascinating to see how this movie compares with the other movies I’ll review during Clean Move Month!


Overall score: 7.2 out of 10


What are your thoughts on Clean Movie Month? Are you looking forward to my next review? Please tell me in the comment section!


Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Love at Sea Review

It’s been a month since I reviewed a Hallmark Channel movie. This gave me a good excuse to watch and review Love at Sea! When I found out the movie’s plot would take place on a cruise ship, I immediately became excited for the film’s arrival! Hallmark does not often incorporate cruises into their movies. The only other Hallmark movie that featured a cruise in their film’s plot was The Mystery Cruise. If you read my list of the Top 10 Worst Hallmark Movies of All Time, you would remember that The Mystery Cruise was placed in the Top 5 (that’s how much I didn’t like that film). For Love at Sea, however, I watched the movie with an open mind and hoped for the best. Did this movie swim with success or sink with a low score? Hop on board and set sail to my review of Love at Sea!

Love at Sea poster
Love at Sea poster created by Crown Media Family Networks and Hallmark Channel. Image found at https://www.crownmediapress.com/Shows/PRShowDetail?SiteID=142&FeedBoxID=845&NodeID=302&ShowType=&ShowTitle=Love+at+Sea.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: I thought the acting in Love at Sea was fine. The performance that really impressed me was Carlos PenaVega’s! The role that he was given felt like it was the right fit for his acting abilities, highlighting his acting skills and helping him shine as much as possible. Carlos’ portrayal of Tony felt believable, his reactions and emotions appeared natural on-screen. Though this is only his second lead role in a Hallmark movie, Carlos has quickly become an important member of the Hallmark community. Carlos, from a talent perspective, definitely has what it takes to lead more Hallmark productions to come!


The incorporation of Royal Caribbean: Love at Sea was the first Hallmark movie that has ever been filmed on a real-life cruise ship. Because the story and film’s production took place on Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas, there was bound to be product placement featured throughout the film. However, the way the Royal Caribbean brand was incorporated into the film didn’t feel like Hallmark was trying to sell a product. Instead, it felt like the movie was making their audience aware of the particular product. There were only a few times when the company or cruise ship name was mentioned by any of the characters. While there were several items with the Royal Caribbean logo on them, they didn’t receive special attention and were showcased in a way that felt natural with what might be seen on a name brand cruise.


Carlos’ singing performance: Before Carlos joined the Hallmark family, I knew that he was a former member of the singing group, Big Time Rush. Prior to this film, I had never heard Carlos sing in a solo performance before. When he performed Frankie Valli’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” in Love at Sea, I was blown away by how wonderful Carlos’ performance was! I hope that if Carlos is cast in another Hallmark Christmas movie, he gets the chance to sing a Christmas song within that film!

Cruise ship near an island image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/holiday-background-on-a-cruise_1182003.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

The miscasting of the lead: While watching Love at Sea, I could tell that Alexa PenaVega was trying the best she could with the acting material she was provided. However, there were a few moments where her performance felt more emotionally exaggerated than it could have been. It seemed like this was the result of the role not being the right fit for Alexa’s acting abilities. Alexa is a good actress and she has proven in the past that she, talent wise, has what it takes to lead a Hallmark production. But, I think this role should have been given to another actress or it should have been rewritten to compliment Alexa’s acting talents.


Lack of on-screen chemistry: In last year’s Hallmark Christmas movie, Enchanted Christmas, one of the best parts about that film was the on-screen chemistry between Alexa and Carlos. In Love at Sea, however, Alexa and Carlos’ on-screen chemistry was non-existent. Both Alexa and Carlos are good actors, individually and as a couple. But, I never felt like their characters were falling in love. There wasn’t any on-screen chemistry between Alexa and Edward Finlay either, even though both of them are good actors.


The plot: There were several issues I had with this plot. The first issue is the story surrounding Alexandra’s event. Whenever any of the characters brought this subject up, I found myself feeling bored and uninterested. Another issue with this plot was how confusing some parts of it seemed. I was confused with what Alexandra’s niche was supposed to be. Some of the characters in Love at Sea mentioned that Alexandra was a Youtuber, but I was having a difficult time figuring out why, exactly, she was well known. I also didn’t understand why an individual rising Youtube star, like Alexandra, would need to host a large cruise-wide event. An issue that appeared more than once in this plot was having events announced by one of the characters, but the event not being featured in the film. A good example is the anticipated cooking competition, where only the final results from this event were shown in the movie, despite the building anticipation for the competition for about half the film.


The under-utilization of the cruise itself: Love at Sea was not only the second Hallmark movie that incorporated a cruise into their film’s plot, but the first time a Hallmark movie was filmed on a real-life cruise ship. Because of this, there were several creative avenues this story could have traveled on. Carlos’ character, Tony, says that he likes making a positive impact on people’s lives and meeting guests from around the world. Unfortunately, the story feels so isolated and closed off from the cruise itself, that it takes away any chances for the audience to get to know and experience the various characters and stories that could have been included in this film’s plot. What would be interesting is a cruise themed movie with a storyline like The Christmas Hope, where there are multiple characters with interconnected stories.


Unnecessary side characters and subplots: As I’ve mentioned before, Edward Finlay is a good actor. In fact, I really liked Edward’s performance in Love at Sea! But it felt like his character, Miles, was placed in this movie just for the sake of being there. Also, Miles didn’t receive his own subplot. Two side characters that did receive their own subplot were Maeve (portrayed by Audrey Landers) and Wes (portrayed by William R. Moses), but it was weaker than the other plots and felt unnecessary within the overall story.

Cruise vacation items created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/summer”>Summer vector created by Freepik</a>. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/summer-elements-collection-in-flat-style_2345793.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

Love at Sea was a disappointing film. Hallmark had so many opportunities and creative choices to make a film that was intriguing and memorable, especially when they had a cruise ship as a backdrop. However, they missed the boat (no pun intended) as well as all the possibilities at their disposal. I am always excited when Hallmark makes creative choices that are unique and interesting, so it’s disappointing when these creative choices don’t reach their full potential. As a Hallmark fan, I do feel that both networks try their best when it comes to making movies. But, not every movie on either network can be a winner. I am looking forward to Carlos and Alexa’s next Hallmark project, whatever that may be! All I hope is that their next movie is given a better story from start to finish.


Overall score: 5.6 out of 10


Have you seen Love at Sea? Are you enjoying Hallmark’s “Summer Nights” line-up so far? Tell me what you think in the comment section!


Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen