A Smile As Big As the Moon
Presented by: Hallmark Hall of Fame
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
I have become a fan of the Hallmark Hall of Fame movies over the years and wait with great anticipation for each one. When it was announced that they would no longer be aired on the CBS network, I worried that I would never get to see any of the newer films. Fortunately, a new contract was worked out with ABC. The first film to air on ABC was Have a Little Faith and I could see that the quality of the movies from Hallmark Hall of Fame had in no way diminished with the network move. So, I couldn’t wait to check out the next film, A Smile As Big As the Moon, which aired on January 29, 2012.
Based on a true story, A Smile As Big As the Moon is set in Michigan in 1989. Special Education teacher and football coach Michael Kersjes (John Corbett) wants more for his students. He wants them to believe that they can do whatever they imagine possible. A failed visit to the local planetarium offers up new hope when his students express interest in Space Camp, a program in which bright, young children learn the challenges presented to astronauts in space.
Michael became inspired. If his students could show so much interest in the idea of a Space Camp, what would a trip to Space Camp do for them. But, like all things worthwhile, Michael Kersjes, his assistant Robynn McKinney (Jessie Schram) and their students would find that the road to Space Camp would be one filled with obstacles. First, Kersjes would have to prove to the school and to Space Camp directors that his special needs students, which included children with Down Syndrome, autism, Tourette’s, emotional issues, dyslexia and other learning disabilities, deserved the chance to prove themselves worthy of the journey. Next, the students would have to study a great deal to learn all of the technological and scientific things they would need to know prior to getting to Space Camp. And they would have to learn teamwork as well. Finally, money would have to be raised to make the journey possible.
Through hard work and perseverance, Kersjes, McKinney and the students find a way to make the trip happen. Despite the odds against them, the students excel at their work in Space Camp and find themselves high on the list of academic achievers in attendance. Through this experience, the students learn that with hard work, belief in themselves and their teammates and a little imagination, anything is possible.
A Smile As Big As the Moon is a heartwarming tale, all the more special as it is a true story. Thanks to the efforts of Michael Kersjes, over 3000 special needs students have been afforded the chance to attend Space Camp. John Corbett did a decent job in the title role, but it was the believable performances by the actors portraying the students that won me over. With performances like those of Logan Huffman as the slow learning Scott who hates having to be in Special Education classes; Breezy Eslin as Stephanie, a young, overweight student living with bipolar disorder, anger management issues and panic attacks; David Lambert as Steve, a student coping with Tourrete’s, Kesun Loder as the artistic Lewis who is subject to lashing out in anger and Peter ten Brink as Ben, a student with Down Syndrome who is as loving as he is loveable, the viewer becomes more immersed in the students’ stories and begins to champion their cause.
A Smile As Big As the Moon is an inspiration to all children who feel that their special needs make them feel less than special in everyone’s eyes. No special needs child should be made to feel like they are anything less simply because they have more challenges than your average child. The movie teaches that with hard work and perseverance anyone, no matter what obstacles are placed in their path, can achieved great things.