When Hallmark does Dallas
John Landsburg (Jon Voight - A Christmas Eve Miracle) has lived on the family ranch all his life, he even banged the nails in the walls on some of the buildings when he was a child. And whilst times are tough he has no plans to sell off land or open up part of the property as a B & B, which is what his daughters Regan (Abby Brammell) and Rebecca (Teri Polo - Love, Again) have suggested. But whilst Rebecca finds herself dealing with her teenage daughter trying to learn who her real father was she also finds herself and J.L. dealing with federal bureaucracy which seems to be trying to take part of J.L's land from him through a government order. But J.L. smells a rat in the form of Tap (James Caan - Blood Ties), a long time rival rancher who has always believed that J.L's ranch really belongs to him and his family with J.L's grandfather having stolen the land.
I grew up watching Dallas and the bitter feud between the Ewing clan and Cliff Barnes when it came to their family history and accusations of treachery. It is why whilst watching "J.L. Family Ranch" that I found myself longing for them to bring back "Dallas" again because this made for TV movie felt like a ranch based variation of "Dallas". Now on paper that sounds good, in fact it sounds great as we have the conniving Tap trying to grab the land, he has always believed belonged to his family, by various unhand schemes. And surrounding this are various subplots featuring the supporting characters from children wanting to know who their father was to another finding himself being blackmailed. Unfortunately the final product whilst not poor doesn't live up to expectations.
Trying to put my finger on what is wrong with "J.L. Family Ranch" I can only say that it feels a little bit lethargic. When you get big moments of drama, confrontations, fights and so on it never really manages to come to life to get your pulse racing. It means that whilst you watch and find the storyline enjoyable you just want a bit more tension and passion to bring the whole thing to life.
What in many ways is the most disappointing thing about "J.L. Family Ranch" is the calibre of the cast as you have names more associated with the big screen such as Jon Voight, James Caan and Melanie Griffith alongside staples of the TV world such as Trevor Donovan, Teri Polo and Steven Bauer but because the movie lacks power and passion their performances are forgettable. The worst thing about this is that scenes which feature confrontations between Voight and Caan's characters turn in to a whispering match as each man tries to say what he wants with out raising his voice.
What this all boils down to is that "J.L. Family Ranch" on paper sounds like something I should of loved with a decent storyline, good setting and a great cast. Sadly whilst the end product isn't bad it is under whelming with a distinct lack of power and passion to make the storyline work.