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Movie Review

When Eric Elliott was a toddler, he got his hand somehow stuck inside a Hoover vacuum cleaner. Folks were eventually able to extricate Eric from the cleaning machine, but from then on everyone called him Hoovey.

And for a long time, that nickname was about the worst thing that ever happened to the kid.

It's not like Hoovey's a horrible nickname or anything. That's the point. By the time Hoovey gets through the opening credits, our titular high schooler seems to have it all together. He's blessed with a loving family, a legion of buddies and some serious basketball skills. He's the star point guard on his basketball team and has aspirations of playing college ball. He has a solid faith and a buoyant optimism. And really, why wouldn't he? No way to see a glass as half-empty when it's filled to the brim, right?

So when the optimistic Hoovey starts experiencing double vision, he's not overly worried. He slaps on a pair of glasses and calls it good. And the headaches? Hey, everyone gets those every now and then. And the collapsing in the middle of the court while screaming in pain? Well … maybe a visit to the doctor's office wouldn't be amiss. But even when the doctor tells him he has a tumor the size of an orange wedged in his brain, Hoovey says, "It's actually kind of a relief. Now I know why I was playing so bad."

But no amount of optimism can wipe away the frightening truth. The tumor's gotta come out. And even if the neurosurgeon successfully removes it, there's a chance Hoovey could suffer permanent brain damage. It'll be costly, too, putting tremendous strain on the Elliotts' finances. Health crises can tear families apart. They can crush dreams. They can sometimes shake the deepest of faiths.

Oh, and basketball? Yeah, Hoovey, you should probably dribble that dream away.

For the first time since Hoovey got his hand stuck in that vacuum, he's learning that life can kinda suck sometimes. So what's your new game plan, Eric Elliott?

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Positive Elements

Yes, the Elliotts deal with some serious challenges in Hoovey. But in good times and bad, the family's cup continues to overflow … with love.

OK, that feels a little overwrought. The Elliotts themselves would probably roll their eyes, which I think is one of their good points. This is not some super-pious, unrealistic family that most of us would never be able to aspire to. The Elliotts—father Jeff, mother Ruth, sister Jen and Hoovey—are loving, yes, but also fun and grounded. They have a great time ribbing one another and, even during the most difficult of moments, they never seem to lose their sense of humor.

And boy do they have some difficult moments. As the medical bills pile up, Jeff and Ruth find themselves at serious risk of losing everything they worked so hard to build—their farm, their home. But when faced with the sorts of losses that even Job might feel some sympathy for, the parents never lose sight of their real treasure. "Our family," Ruth tells Jeff. "That is the only dream we ever had."

Throughout the whole of Hoovey, this family shows a determined willingness to work hard through each and every obstacle. Jeff says that the Elliotts have never been quitters. But they also have an eye on the bigger picture: That it's important to live life fully and in a manner that's pleasing to God. They've figured out that they need to hold onto this world's treasures a bit loosely, knowing that our final reward is elsewhere.

[Spoiler Warning] There comes a point in the movie where Hoovey and the family are weighing whether he should return to the basketball court. Because doctors had to remove part of his skull, there's some danger in playing basketball: A blow to the head might even kill him. Is it an acceptable risk? Hoovey believes so. "I want to play again," he tells his parents. "I think God wants that, too." But, he adds, turning to his mother, who's naturally very concerned with her boy's safety, "I won't go against you."

Spiritual Content

Remember how I name-checked Job a minute ago? Well, the movie does too. The Elliotts are resilient, but they're very human. Almost every one of them wonders why it feels like God's punishing them for something. "Where did I screw up, Ruth?" Jeff asks her. "Where did I choke?" Hoovey asks the same question: "What did I do wrong?"

Coach Wilson responds by pointing to the biblical story of Job. He relates how it wasn't Job's fault that he had to endure tribulation—just like it's not the Elliotts' fault that Hoovey got sick. And how, the coach asks, did Job respond to God when his world was reduced to a pile of ash? "It was all [God's] to begin with," Hoovey answers, with a sense of newfound understanding.

Hoovey is a story about holding onto faith even during the toughest of circumstances, and we see the Elliotts' faith at every turn. They pray before every meal. They openly talk about faith and God. Jeff gives Hoovey a cross necklace that belonged to his grandfather as a reminder of what's "really important." And when Hoovey's going in for surgery, he reminds his pops not to worry. "If I—you know," Hoovey says, purposefully skirting the word die, "I know where I'm going."

Coach Wilson leads the guys in a before-game prayer that seems to be a common ritual for them. Hoovey's recovery is referred to as an honest-to-goodness miracle more than once. Both Ruth and Jeff ask God for strength. Hoovey reminds his mom about what she says about dreams: If it's "good and true, it came from God." At a picnic, a pastor blesses the meal.

When Hoovey and Jeff skid off a snowy road during a medical emergency, three strangers give their truck a push. Narrating, Ruth casts a spiritual light on the visitors, suggesting they might've been angels.

Sexual Content

When Hoovey sees a classmate named Kristen for the first time after summer break, he's a bit surprised by how she looks. "You look bigger," he says, hastily adding, "taller, I mean." As Hoovey is recovering from surgery, he pushes a wheelbarrow along a railroad track to improve his balance. Kristen gets in the wheelbarrow, and eventually the two tumble off the rail, with Hoovey hovering over a prostrate Kristen until he's sure she's OK. She is … and she kisses him.

Violent Content

Basketball isn't an overtly violent sport, but we do see some players jostle and get pushed down. Every point of contact seems heightened by the fact that Hoovey's head is so fragile. When an opponent knocks him down, a teammate rushes to his aid, threatening to break the other guy's jaw.

After getting shoved by a teammate during practice, Hoovey falls to the floor in serious pain, wailing. Hoovey's eventual surgery (which is not shown beyond his hair getting shaved) leaves the back of his head bandaged for quite a few scenes. (We later see scars.) Jeff rescues a teen from a burning car. He and his fellow firefighters use the Jaws of Life to pry the door loose and pull the unconscious kid (who's bleeding a bit) from the car. They battle a house fire.

Jeff jokes that Hoovey looks like a serial killer when he wears glasses. There's talk of a guy who got killed at another school.

Crude or Profane Language

One each of "dork," "screw up" and (a muffled) "oh god."

Drug and Alcohol Content

None.

Other Negative Elements

As mentioned, Hoovey works on getting his balance back by walking on the railroad tracks.

Conclusion

When the Elliott kids were little, Jeff would bolster them by reminding them about what "the angel first said in the Bible: Do not be afraid."

But that's far easier said than done when the truly dark times of life come along.

Jeff tells Hoovey—and us—about a famous tightrope walker who scampered across Niagara Falls on a high wire. One day, the tightrope walker brought a wheelbarrow to the wire and asked the teeming onlookers whether they believed he could push the contraption across. "Yes!" they said. But when he asked for volunteers to ride that wheelbarrow, not a soul spoke up.

That, Jeff says, is what faith is all about: To trust enough to ride in the wheelbarrow. It's something Hoovey and his dad both have to grapple with. And it's good to watch them do it, because it's something we all have to grapple with, right along with the question of how much risk is too much.

Directed by Sean McNamara (who brought Soul Surfer to theaters in 2011), Hoovey is based on the true story of Eric Elliott and his family, pulled from Jeff Elliott's self-published book Rebounding From Death's Door. And even as the plot focuses on Hoovey's medical struggles and the family's unflagging fight against adversity, the movie is ultimately about faith—and the ability of the Elliotts to trust God in some seriously uncertain times.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Content Caution

Kids
Teens
Adults

Credits

Rating

PG

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Cody Linley as Eric 'Hoovey' Elliott; Patrick Warburton as Jeff Elliott; Lauren Holly as Ruth; Alyson Stoner as Jen; Brandon Smith as Donavan; Charles Robinson as Coach Wilson; Elise Baughman as Kristen; Glenn Morshower as Dr. Kattner

Director

Sean McNamara ( Spare PartsSoul SurferBratzRaise Your Voice)

Distributor

EchoLight Studios

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

In Theaters

January 31, 2015

On Video

May 5, 2015

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Paul Asay

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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