Road to Avonlea, The Movie

           

Reviewer: Stephanie Vale

           

Rarely does a movie span across generations to touch the hearts and minds of people from all ages and backgrounds: Road to Avonlea, The Movie is one of them. Based on L.M. Montgomery's timeless classics, and following the success of Sullivan's Anne of Green Gables (1985) and Anne of Avonlea (1987, re-titled, Anne of Green Gables the Sequel), Road to Avonlea focuses on the adventures of the people in Anne's hometown, Avonlea.

 

The story begins in 1903, when Sara Stanley (Sara Polley) a spoiled little rich girl, leaves Montreal to go live with her relatives on Prince Edward Island after her father, Blair Stanley, is put under house arrest for possible involvement in an embezzlement scandal. Sara, whose mother died when Sara was a young child, travels from Montreal to the King farm on P.E.I. with her Nanny Louisa. When they arrive, her Aunt Hetty (Jacki Burroughs) takes an instant dislike to the some-what demanding Nanny Louisa, and threatens her with the constable if she does not return to Montreal, leaving Sara in their charge. Nanny Louisa adamantly refuses, insisting that she "has taken care of Sara since she was a wee child, and was not about to leave her now," but is eventually forced to leave Sara, or be arrested.

 

Hetty, who has held a grudge against Blair for many years (because he ran off and married her sister, Ruth) lives with Olivia (Sara's other aunt, a sweet-tempered woman played by Mag Ruffman) in Rose Cottage. They take Sara in to live with them, as there is no room for her at the King farm: and so begins the adventures of a somewhat sassy and proud little blonde-haired girl named Sara. At first Sara refuses to "be happy" living here in the place that her mother grew up in and loved so much. She refuses to eat, causing Olivia to worry for her, and Hetty to lock with her in a fierce battle of wills. Sara begins to attend Avonlea school (where Hetty resides over as a strict teacher) and is found to have learned only such "unnecessary" things as French, ballet, etc., and has learned little to nothing of such fundamentals as math and spelling. She is embarrassed in front of all the pupils, and made fun of especially by her cousins: Felicity King (Gema Zaprogna) and Felix King (Zachary Bennet).

 

A little jealous of their Montreal-born cousin, Felicity (who is a bit of a know-it-all) and Felix (who delights in torturing Felicity) join forces to create havoc in Sara's first few weeks in Avonlea, with their younger sister Cecily (Harmony Cramp) sometimes tagging along. They rig a trap to make her fall into a pigsty, push her into mud, ruining her new beautiful shoes (a gift from her father), tell her tales about the local "witch" Peg Bowen, and find other ways to make her life miserable. Through it all, Sara remains proud and collected, and even retaliates with a few tricks of her own, before things are forced to head: either become friends or make each other's lives miserable. I grew up watching this family-friendly series (re-titled Avonlea and aired on the Disney Channel from 1990-1997). When I saw that this DVD was being released featuring two episodes, "The Journey Begins" and "Proof of the Pudding," as Road to Avonlea, The Movie, " I was thrilled! The storyline is enchanting, the material is good wholesome family fun, and the best part is that you don't have to worry about your kids watching this great movie/series. There are seven seasons in all of Road to Avonlea (although only two episodes from season 1 are featured on the DVD) and each episode teaches a different moral lesson; while not necessarily "religious" in nature, it does included regular church going and features sermons occasionally.

There is not much objectionable content that I could find: family squabbles (that always end with a good moral lesson), some mentions of the town "witch," a spoiled child who back-talks her elders, selfish cousins who create mischief at every turn, and a haughty and prideful woman in the form of Hetty King, are about as bad as it gets. Each episode of the series contains a minimal amount of objectionable content and language, although it varies from episode to episode. Language in this film is kept to one use of "Godforsaken" and milder words like gall and calling someone a viper. Even through this, choices are made and lessons are learned, leaving you with a feeling of happiness and delight in this wonderful story! All in all, this inspiring and exceptional award-winning family series is a must see, especially for fans of the Anne of Green Gables series. This is one of those rare treats that you will want to treasure and watch again and again.

 


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