Robert Vernon, the writer and director of The Last Days of Eugene Meltsner, crafts a story with a sufficiently-written plot for the enjoyment of young children; but when one looks closer the film lacks some important elements. Though a stellar cast, including Will Ryan as Eugene, Katie Leigh as Connie, and Paul Herlinger as Whit make up the film, the film lacks in character development. Vernon does not develop his characters enough for the viewer to become emotionally attached to the characters. He seems to assume that viewers of his film have already seen other Adventures in Odyssey videos or listened to the audio series. In The Last Days of Eugene Meltsner, Robert Vernon writes a film with poor character development and a weak plot that can suffice for one’s children, the audience who Vernon wrote it for, but does not hold up under scrutiny.
Robert Vernon does not develop his characters well enough for viewers to care about the events that happen to them throughout his film. By relying on an assumption that viewers already know and understand his characters, especially Eugene, Vernon alienates an entire audience from his film. Though Vernon does establish basic facts about the character of Eugene, both he and the other main characters of the movie do not get enough character development for viewers to sympathise with the characters. Viewers do not learn anything about Eugene’s relationships with Whit and Connie—they only learn that Eugene and Connie argue and that Whit is Eugene’s and Connie’s boss. People who do not already know about Eugene’s history with Connie and Whit at Whit’s End cannot understand the significance of him leaving his job there. What Vernon could have made an emotional scene for all his viewers simply leaves his viewers in confusion as to the reason for Connie’s wistfulness. Instead of presumptuously assuming that his viewers have already consumed Adventures in Odyssey media, and therefore know the characters, Robert Vernon could have improved his film by incorporating better character development into it.
Though Vernon did not incorporate much character development, he does somewhat better when incorporating plot development and even includes a deeper, more applicable theme than the themes in most children’s cartoons. In the movie, Eugene finds out that he has a deadly disease and decides to make the most of the rest of his life because he does not have much time left. Vernon develops the plot by first showing us only Connie, Dylan, and Jessie’s perspectives. They do not know why Eugene has suddenly started acting strangely and giving away some of his most prized possessions. Robert Vernon also incorporates foreshadowing. Bernard Walton, a janitor, mentions that he got a new job washing windows at the Odyssey Commerce Building. Later, Eugene goes to that building to take out a check, and a robbery takes place. Eugene risks his life to stop the robbery and Bernard sees some of what happens through the window. Again, Vernon uses Bernard as a tool to give foreshadowing by showing Bernard reading the label on his washing liquid, which reads “flammable,” and comes into play later. Even though Vernon is not successful in all aspects of his film, he does successfully incorporate the theme of living each day to the fullest throughout the film. For example, before he leaves Whit’s End after quitting, Eugene quotes Psalm 90:12 which says, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (The New International Version). He apologizes and makes things right with Connie. Presumably, he goes to take out a check and leaves his job to help the needy. Eugene’s generosity, self-sacrifice, and sudden focus on people and relationships show specific examples of how one could live their life to the fullest. In The Last Days of Eugene Meltsner, Robert Vernon develops the plot with foreshadowing and entwines a theme with an applicable moral into the film.
Parents may find the film tolerable, or even somewhat beneficial to their young children but it is nowhere near a perfect movie for all ages to enjoy. One can understand a parent putting this cartoon on for their children as it lacks any expletives, contains little violence—with no blood—and does not portray immoral actions as good. Vernon also incorporates an excellent theme that children can apply to their lives. However, a critic has much left to desire in this film. The character development lacks, the plot suffices, and the mouth movements in the animation do not line up with the audio. In the end, then, parents who need something to quickly find for their children to watch without having to worry about the content can show their children The Last Days of Eugene Meltsner, but most people will not find the movie worth its purchase price.
The Bible. The New International Version, Biblica, 2011.