This is Where the Healing Begins
Trey Caldwell (Nathan Gamble - Marley & Me) loved it when his father brought him a Soap Box Derby kit as together they worked to build it. But before it was completed Trey's father was called back early to serve his country and never returned home, dying serving his country. Unsurprisingly it hits Trey incredibly hard, left bewildered and shattered by the sudden loss of his father unable to think about the Soap Box Derby or the half built car as it reminds him of his father. Local man Roy Gibbs (Corbin Bernsen - Ordinary Miracles) meets Trey and knows how he feels as he lost his brave son, a fire-fighter, in 9/11. Patiently Roy helps Trey through his sadness as they form a bond working on the soap box car.
When "Heart of a Hero", which also goes by the name "25 Hill", started I feared the worse because of a flashback scene where Nathan Gamble as Trey over acts when his dad present him with the Soap Box Derby kit and he looks shocked. Fortunately that is one of only a few ropey scenes in what is quite a surprising family drama which you think will be one thing only for it to switch things around and be almost the opposite of what you think.
You see the synopsis for "Heart of a Hero" sounds like a typical family drama where we have a surrogate father son thing going on with two damaged individuals dealing with grief. But there is more going on here because on one hand it is Roy who has the bigger problems, struggling with anger and bitterness which you don't expect with young Trey trying to help him get back to how he really is. It makes this movie a lot more interesting and a family movie rather than a children's movie as it doesn't shy away from paternal grief and anger over the loss of a child.
Now "Heart of a Hero" is a movie with a theme of "Faith and Courage" and has a Christian side with scenes featuring church and praying. But this isn't a preachy movie but one about people having the faith and courage to move on with their lives and it is more about the positive effects of letting people in.
So early on I mentioned I feared the worse as Nathan Gamble over acts in a flashback scene right at the start of "Heart of a Hero" but then he follows it up with one of the most outstanding emotional scenes I've ever seen as he delivers the bewilderment of a young boy at a funeral struggling to deal with the loss of his father. And Gamble impresses throughout the rest of the movie with an entertaining and confident performance working well with Corbin Bernsen who brings so much old timer skill to his character it as a joy to watch. In fact Bernsen who also wrote and directed "Heart of a Hero" deserves a lot of praise for making such a well judged family drama which integrates aspects of Christianity but without the bible thumping ferocity of a fire and brimstone preacher.
What this all boils down to is that "Heart of a Hero" is a surprisingly effective family drama with a familiar set up of two broken people brought together nicely elaborated on by Corbin Bernsen. It certainly isn't perfect, it gets far too jingoistic at times and there will be those who won't like the Christian element but even for those who object to movies which mention church and praying the other aspects are still entertaining.