Grace Unplugged gives a glimpse into the life of 18 year old Grace Trey (played by AJ Michalka), daughter of rock star turned worship leader Johnny Trey (played by James Denton). In the opening scene, we see that Grace and her father play together on their church’s worship team. Almost immediately, we sense that there’s a strain in their relationship, which seems to come out in their music. Johnny is struggling to keep Grace reigned in, while she is pushing boundaries in a an attempt to express herself and find her own voice.
One Sunday morning the Trey family receives an unexpected visit at church from Johnny’s former manager Mossy (played by Kevin Pollak). Mossy has come to offer Johnny a record deal. Although there is a bit of discussion about this possibility, Johnny ultimately rejects the offer. Grace is dumbfounded as to why he would reject such an amazing opportunity. On a whim, she records a demo of her father’s hit song Misunderstood and sends it to Mossy. Before she knows it, she’s on a plane to L.A. and is entering the music scene her father left behind so many years ago.
Initially Grace is taken in by the excitement and glamor of L.A. However, the sheltered and naive Grace soon begins to understand that many of the people around her are trying to manipulate and use her for their own gain. In the midst of all this darkness, a bright light emerges in the character of Quentin (played by Michael Welch). He’s the one person who has Grace’s best interest in mind, helping her to maintain a foothold in her former life, which she thought she needed to leave behind.
As Grace begins to fully understand the ramifications of her new life, she begins to weigh the opportunity costs associated with being a star. She must decide whether fame and fortune is worth compromising her relationship with God and the values her parents had instilled in her since childhood. The story comes to a touching close with Grace returning home to Alabama. She surprises her parents when she shows up at Sunday service, asking for forgiveness from all the people she hurt and performing the song All I’ve Ever Needed. At the very end of the movie, we get a glimpse of where Grace’s life heads two years down the road, but I don’t want to give that away, so you’ll have to go watch the film to find out what happens.
Grace Unplugged really took me by surprise. After my wife and I watched it through the first time, we both agreed that this is a movie we needed to watch with our older children. The story touches on a range of difficult issues, including rebellion, lying, alcohol use, and peer pressure. What impressed me most was that although the movie contained some adult themes, they were presented in such a gentle, non-gratuitous fashion that it didn’t detract from the innocence of the story. These themes made for a fabulous springboard into a heart to heart discussion with our teens about the challenges they saw Grace going through in the film, the fact that they will face similar challenges one day, and that they need to be prepared to handle those challenges in a God-honoring fashion. I wholeheartedly recommend this as a film to watch with your kids age eleven and older.
Music fans will be interested to know that Jamie Grace plays Grace’s friend Rachel in the film, Chris Tomlin makes an appearance as himself, and American Idol star Pia Toscano appears briefly as another aspiring music artist in L.A.
Grace Unplugged is a prodigal daughter story you won’t want to miss. I give it 5 out of 5 stars!
For more information on the film and soundtrack visit GraceUnplugged.com.
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