More Than Diamonds
In the Rough

In this first-time feature from screenwriter/director Grant Skellenger, pre-teen Alexander stumbles into a real mystery soon after his recently-widowed and financially-strapped mom moves the family of five into a downsized home to save money.  It seems that one half of a successful diamond-heist duo also once lived in the house… and left behind clues about the location of the stolen diamonds for his erstwhile partner, who was unable to elude the law.  Now, seven years after the crime, Alexander and his brother Sebastian, along with their younger sisters, must elude the paroled diamond thief while cracking the secret code that conceals the jewel-hoard’s location.

While Skellenger successfully assembles a completed film with his low-budget cast and sets—which is by no means an insignificant accomplishment, by the way—the end product never really develops a personality or rhythm.  As Skellenger himself pointed out in an interview with Vonda Skelton, “Some things won’t play on the screen the way they play in your head, and they’ll be changed or cut. … I found that there were lots of spots where I’d over-written the dialog.”  And, as Skellenger and I have both learned, there’s only so much you can do in the editing room to overcome such conceptual and screenwriting problems.  When the work on the pre-production end is unpolished—again, not particularly a knock on this inexperienced director—the product will likely be unpolished, too.  Anyone remember the original version of Flywheel, for instance?

Lisa Justice as Maria in More Than DiamondsStill, More Than Diamonds doesn’t demonstrate the same kind of thematic potential that Flywheel did.  In part, that’s because Skellenger is aiming for a light, quasi-comedic tone for this family film while the folks at Sherwood were aiming for profundity.  Diamonds, by comparison, is a simple story about a family finding its way through the wake of tragedy… and about kids having fun with a mystery.

It’s entirely possible that you may enjoy sitting down to watch this film with your children.  Similar titles I’ve reviewed here at Past the Popcorn include Treasure Blind, Secrets of the Mountain, and Mandie and the Secret Tunnel—none of which I particularly enjoyed, either.  But take that with a grain of salt. Your tastes may run completely different to mine; and those films, if you are familiar with them, may be a good measure for Diamonds.  With a bigger budget and a few more films under his belt, Skellenger might have made something that felt a bit like Kitt Kittredge.

But remember—I don’t spend much time at all around children. So what do I know?

The upside is that Skellenger has made a film that’s truly suitable for all ages.  If you’re looking for light popcorn/game-night flicks for your family, this might suit you fine.

More Than Diamonds is unrated.  But it’s kosher.  Call it G.

Courtesy of the film’s producers, Greg screened a promotional copy of More Than Diamonds.