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Cherry Pop

(Woody Harrelson, Jon Seda, Anne Bancroft, et al / DVD / R / (1996) 2016 / 20th Century Fox)

Overview: Oscar-nominee Woody Harrelson ('The People Vs. Larry Flynt') stars in this moving story about a young convicted murderer who is dying of cancer and takes his doctor hostage as he desperately attempts to flee Los Angeles for a sacred Navajo mountain in Arizona.

DVD Verdict: Brandon 'Blue' Monroe is only 16, but he is in a juvenile facility after being convicted of murder, and because of an incurable tumor, he has only a month or so to live. Figuring he has nothing to lose, he takes Dr. Michael Reynolds hostage and demands that Dr. Reynolds take him to a 'sacred mountain' in Arizona, where a medicine man he knew as a boy might be able to heal him.

At first no one knows what has happened to Dr. Reynolds. Later, he is suspected of having helped Blue because he was the one who recommended that Blue be transported to another hospital for treatment, and it was while he was being moved that he escaped. Dr. Reynolds did not go voluntarily, but later hostage and kidnapper begin to form a bond, and to understand each other. For example, Dr. Reynolds believes only in Western medicine, while Blue, who is half Navajo, trusts the ways of the Native American. Renata, who picks them up in the desert, also tries to convince Dr. Reynolds that her people know about healing and that white people just push poison.

The title of the movie refers to a healer with special powers. As we hear Blue tell the Sunchaser story, we see (in black and white) scenes of young Michael and his brother Jimmy, who died of cancer when he was young. Jimmy was on life support when he gave Michael a ring, and Michael will not give up the ring to Blue even when being threatened with death.

Jon Seda gave a great performance. Blue was unflinching and tough but also tender and even spiritual. This was not exactly Woody Harrelson's best work, but he had his good moments, such as when he first met Blue, and when he told Blue about Jimmy. Harrelson got better in the movie's second half. Talisa Soto did a good job as the tough, independent granddaughter of a Navajo medicine man.

There were some funny moments, such as when Dr. Reynolds tried to talk to Navajos he did not believe spoke English (but they did). A woman who might have been Dixie Carter is told at a gas station that she looks just like the woman on 'Designing Women', but she says she does not even watch television.

I was hoping for better car chases, but there were some exciting scenes involving Blue and Dr. Reynolds driving too fast (Dr. Reynolds was behind the wheel, but Blue put his foot on the accelerator), whether they were being pursued or not. The Arizona scenery, meanwhile, was magnificent.

In between the fast-paced scenes, there were deep discussions about spiritual and medical matters. This movie was no masterpiece, but it was often intelligent. I highly recommend this as brain food viewing as it will most surely make you think come the end, trust me. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.77:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.