There's a pretty good chance that I'd pay to watch Edward James Olmos read the phone book. The acclaimed yet underappreciated actor has been an Academy Award nominee, Emmy Award winner, Golden Globe winner, Screen Actors Guild Winner, Independent Spirit Award winner and the list goes on.
When Olmos shows up, it instantly elevates the quality of the film.
The same is true here for Walking With Herb, a faith-based production from director Ross Kagan Marks that almost instantly soars on the strength of Olmos's compelling performance that weaves together a tapestry of emotional resonance and gentle humor in telling the story of Joe Amable-Amo, a 65-year-old bank exec and former amateur golfer whose life of faith is called into question after an unexpected family tragedy. When God shows up and gives Joe a most unique mission, Joe is forced to deal with his crisis of faith, self-doubt, and rusty swing. Guided by Herb (George Lopez) and an unwavering wife (Kathleen Quinlan), Joe's journey will inspire and warm the heart.
Walking With Herb could have easily been your typical one-note faith-based motion picture, but if there's anything we've learned about Edward James Olmos it's that he's incapable of ever only playing one note. Olmos makes Joe's crisis of faith feel heavy on our hearts yet rich and believable. Yet, Olmos also lives greatly into Joe's broad character arc even when the action that's unfolding occasionally gets a little goofy. The scenes between Olmos and Quinlan are warm and touching, Quinlan's turn here an absolute delight as she immensely humanizes what it means to have faith.
As Herb, George Lopez has one of his best roles in quite some time. Lopez's Herb is funny yet endearing and filled with so much empathy that there's never any doubt there's a whole lot more going on here. Lopez is pitch-perfect and gives an understated, winning performance.
Another little gem here is Johnathan McClain as Gabe, a Jewish bank employee who serves up an awful lot of the film's humor and yet does so grounded in humanity. It's a terrific performance for McClain that had me quickly heading over to IMDB to check out his filmography.
Jessica Medoff, as Audrey, also turns in a fine performance and I couldn't help but smile in this film centered around golf to see Shooter McGavin himself, aka Christopher McDonald, make an appearance as, hilariously enough, a caddy.
If you're not a fan of faith-based films, Walking With Herb isn't likely to change your mind and the film's not likely to have a ton of crossover appeal despite it's better than usual casting. Walking With Herb may not be the best faith-based film I've seen, but it's a definitely notch or two above a good majority of them.
Mitch Fowler's lensing for the film is solid throughout while Ariel Marx's original score serves as the film's perfect complement.
Director Ross Kagan Marks has crafted a warm, friendly winner here that infuses inspiration with humor. Or is that humor with inspiration?
You get the point. Tony Award® winner and Academy Award® nominee for Children of a Lesser God, Mark Medoff has created an engaging and relentlessly inspiring story beautifully brought to life by a talented ensemble cast.
Walking With Herb recently enjoyed a three-day Fathom Events engagement and arrives in limited theatrical release on May 7th with Optimism Entertainment.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic