Beek's Up a Salem Creek
Jack McBradden (James Van Der Beek - Taken in Broad Daylight) was once a popular teacher, that was until a teenager with a crush on him accused him of sexual assault which in turn led to a wrongful conviction. It is why he is looking for a fresh start and how he ends up in Salem Falls, well after he was accidentally run off the road late at night by a drunken Roy Peabody (Peter MacNeill) on his lawnmower. Not only does it lead to Jack meeting Roy's daughter, Addie (Sarah Carter - Confessions of a Go-Go Girl), but also Jack working at her diner. But it seems history may be about to repeat itself when Gillian Duncan (AJ Michalka - Expecting Amish), a teen who likes to dabble with witchcraft, develops a crush on Jack and starts ramping up her spells. When Gillian learns that Jack and Addie are close she accuses Jack of raping her with it becoming a witch hunt with her dad leading things.
I often wonder whether not being a huge reader is a benefit or a hinderance when it comes to watching movie adaptations. On one hand it means that I am not disappointed when a movie strays away from the book but on the other hand already knowing the story means that gaps can be filled and the whole thing elaborated on in the mind when parts of the story are left out. That brings me to "Salem Falls", which is an adaptation of a Jodi Picoult novel, which of course I haven't read. And that, I think, is a problem as I get a sense that already knowing the story stops "Salem Falls" from coming across like a lot of cliches, or at least coming across like that to start with.
Now that synopsis for "Salem Falls" only hints at the cliches but to start with Jack ends up staying in Salem Falls because his car ends up needing repairing and is stuck in the garage awaiting parts. Of course there is some romance as Jack and Addie end up falling for each other despite both being the proverbial "damaged individuals", he with his past conviction and Addie struggling to get over the loss of a child. There are other cliches including a local cop who has a thing for Addie who even before the trouble is hinted at you can guess will be pivotal when things kick off and he wants Jack out of the picture.
But whilst "Salem Falls" has a few cliches along with some overly sweet romantic scenes it does have this interesting crossover as we have three teen girls dabbling in witchcraft, especially Gillian who has a major crush on Jack. But in the end it leads to quite a predictable problem as Jack finds himself accused of sexually assaulting Gillian who in typical spoilt teen fashion is to put it simply a "bitch". I will leave it there as I am sure you can picture how things will end up although I will say that Jodi Picoult's story weaves a seriously tangled web which criss-crosses all over the place in an entertaining fashion before finding its ending.
As for the acting, well on one hand all the performances are of a good level with James Van Der Beek and Sarah Carter working well together with a simple charm between them whilst AJ Michalka makes Gillian a full on teenage bitch with a sense of privilege and a lack of concern for others which makes her dangerous. But you get a sense that the actors have been chosen just as much for their visual appeal as for their acting talent with Michalka looking particularly attractive in pretty much every scene.
What this all boils down to is that "Salem Falls" ends up more than the cliches it starts out as and grows in to a story which weaves one way and then another with various revelations which makes it entertaining, but unable to escape from being typical of the made for TV genre.