Richard Thomas in Wild Hearts (2006)

Thomas & Hirsh Heart Ranch Life

Struggling to deal with his rebellious daughter Madison (Hallee Hirsh), single father and LA detective Bob Hart (Richard Thomas) decides that they will move to the family ranch he inherited following the death of his father. Not wanting to be in the middle of nowhere Madison gradually warms to life on the ranch and sees how relaxed her father is as he takes up the position of local Sheriff and becomes friendly with Emily (Nancy McKeon). But all is not well as between some of their horses being killed alongside trouble in town when a shop is burned down Bob has to discover what is going on and why.

As you grow older certain things change; you begin to like movies which once you would have called sentimental rubbish and become aware of common themes which frequently crop up in movies. But one thing doesn't change and that is Richard Thomas who having made his name as John-Boy in "The Waltons" is still doing a grand job of playing that sort of nice guy character. All of which brings me to "Wild Hearts" because not only does it star Richard Thomas playing yet again one of these nice guys but it is also a charming little made for TV movie from Hallmark which mixes a family bonding element set on a ranch with an old western style story of a corrupt businessman trying to force land owners to give up their property. It is a movie which is simply soft, a typical Hallmark ranch movie but in its simple innocence "Wild Hearts" is charming and perfect for those who just want something wholesome and easy to watch.

Hallee Hirsh in Wild Hearts (2006)

So "Wild Hearts" is basically the fusion of two familiar Hallmark themes with the first being that of family bonding. We have the less than original set up of LA Detective Bob Hart having problems with his rebellious daughter Madison, struggling as a single dad since his wife was killed. And then we have the fact that Bob had issues with his own dad which meant he left the family ranch and never returned or spoke to his father again. And even more typically when Bob takes Madison back to the ranch following his father's death we have bonding, Bob learns that his dad was proud of him whilst Madison sees another, more relaxed side to her dad and connects with him whilst also connecting with the quiet life which she initially detests. It is all very obvious, very routine and you know at some point there will be romance between certain characters, but it is also very pleasant and easy to watch.

Running alongside this traditional Hallmark theme "Wild Hearts" also has an old western theme as Bob learns that the son-in-law of the town's Mayor is behind plans to redevelop the town by building a mall and casino. And he also learns that the son-in-law is trying to get his hands on land which he says he needs for the development. Basically what we have is the old fashioned corrupt businessman sinking to underhand tactics such as arson and killing live stock to try and force people into giving up their land. It is as familiar as the whole bonding side of "Wild Hearts" and to be honest whilst delivering some drama is not gritty in the slightest but it works.

So basically "Wild Hearts" is really a soft little afternoon drama with no real grittiness to it but a whole bucket load of charm. Although it does have one very enjoyable twist, a single moment which makes it that little bit cleverer than you expect.

Now what makes "Wild Hearts" a frankly unoriginal little drama work is nice direction from Steve Boyum, a great filming location but also great casting. As already mentioned Richard Thomas basically plays a wholesome good guy, the protective single father who just happens to be a Sheriff whilst also looking at home on the ranch. Hallee Hirsh is just as good as Madison giving us initially soft rebellion but transforming into a ranch hand under the tutelage of Hank who is wonderfully played by Geoffrey Lewis delivering a relaxed performance of a cowboy who has lived the ranch life. It basically works from the main parts to the minor ones such as Bob's love interest Emily played by the beautiful Nancy McKeon.

What this all boils down to is that "Wild Hearts" is a typical Hallmark movie which combines a ranch setting, some family bonding and the old western favourite of a corrupt businessman trying to get his hands on land. It isn't gritty, in fact "Wild Hearts" is very soft, but it has a wholesome charm about it which is perfect for those just looking for some innocent, inoffensive entertainment.