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here's a rarity : a children's film that attempts to tackle a weighty subject , is there a god ?
done well , it could have been a gem among the wasteland of modern children's cinema .
unfortunately , it isn't .
with jumbled messages , and an unclear audience , wide awake was better left asleep .
fifth grader joshua beal ( joseph cross ) is in the middle of a moral crisis .
his beloved grandfather ( robert loggia ) has died , and joshua has begun a quest .
he wants to find god , to discover why bad things happen .
this religious quest is slightly disturbing for his parents ( dana delany and denis leary ) , but they do their best to cope with their son as he explores different religious faiths .
at his catholic school , his favorite teacher , sister terry ( rosie o'donnell ) , tries to give him guidance , but this is a journey he must make on his own .
meanwhile , he is having the most momentous year of his life .
he has several adventures with his daredevil best friend dave ( timothy reifsnyder ) , he gets his first crush , and begins to wake up to the world around him while he is on his spiritual journey .
it is somewhat confusing as to what the real audience for wide awake is expected to be .
on its surface , it appears to be a kid's film .
however , it deals with serious issues , and is likely to be boring for today's instant-gratification kids .
and while it might seem heartening to see that someone is trying to produce something thoughtful for the kidvid audience , wide awake asks serious questions , but only delivers a cheap gimmick for an answer .
if there were a bit more meat in the story , adults on a nostalgic bent might get a kick out of the movie .
the actors who might have created a great cast ( o'donnell , leary and delany ) are wasted in roles that amount to little more than cameos .
the nostalgic elements ( best friend , favorite teacher , first crush , etc . ) have been done much better in other movies , and actually seem more like filler here .
the film's strongest scenes are some touching flashbacks depicting joshua's relationship with his grandfather .
they show more depth than is present anywhere else in the movie .
maybe the film would have been better if , instead of playing the relationship through flashbacks , it were set entirely during joshua's last year with his grandpa .
it certainly would have been more entertaining .
wide awake can best be described as a failed experiment .
it starts out with noble aspirations , but never delivers on its promise .
parents who do take their children to see this one ought to be prepared to answer some tough questions . . . that is if their kids aren't bored to death first .