Film: Even Jesus Can’t Save This ‘Tulsa’

The line between precocious child and pint-size annoyance can be a tricky one, and Tulsa happily skips to both sides of it. Ultimately, Livi Birch, in her debut performance, will warm any heart. 

Mostly, this is the first half of the Heidi story told with some heavy Jesus frosting, with the sunshiny little girl turning around her gruff overseer.

We know Pryor’s character Tommy Colston is an addict because he drinks from big bottles of brown liquid, as drunks do, and takes handfuls of unidentified pills from containers he is sure to shake first. It almost explains his near complete lack of personality. 

But once she destroys all of his alcohol and cigarettes (and he is apparently unaware he can buy some more), his rehabilitation seems strangely instantaneous. 

He warms to her all of a sudden, too, when he puts a sunflower over a skull on a helmet so she can ride on his motorcycle. 

Pryor is happy to tell you almost the entire story in his trailer, so I will follow suit, by saying she gets hit by a bus, and receives a severe brain injury. We see no evidence of this, and she certainly doesn’t seem too sick in the hospital where she even takes time to plays her ukulele for other kid patients. He prays over her, and they go against doctor’s orders by attending the vaunted father-daughter dance anyway. 

And how about that doctor — no less than John Schneider of Smallville and The Dukes of Hazzard, popping in with brief medical opinions a couple of times. 

There is malpractice going on in this slow-moving film whose head-scratching ending seems to say, well, maybe prayer doesn’t work. 

Tulsa did well when it was self-released to theaters. Because religious groups have very few movies to go see without violence, sex and cuss words that they can attend comfortably, those in the faith-based  genre, as it’s being called, can be very forgiving on the quality of their entertainment they do get. They may be sufficiently uplifted even by this. 

But unless Tulsa becomes a cult item in the category of sub-Norris attempts, it may be time for Pryor to return his full focus to personal injury law. 

Tulsa’ will be released through Amazon Prime, Google Play and iTunes on Feb. 2, when it will also be available on DVD. 

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