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'On a Wing and a Prayer' review: Faith based true story never takes flight

Courtesy of Prime Video


Midway through “On a Wing and a Prayer,” a-made-for-streaming faith based clunker appropriately timed for the Easter holiday, I was baffled that a movie about an average joe with minimal flight experience, who was forced to to land a plane after the pilot died of a heart attack, could be so boring. Considering it’s script, penned by screenwriter Brian Egeston, stems from true events, “On a Wing and a Prayer,” directed by Sean McNamara, had an opportunity to avoid the clunky mechanics that often plagued faith-themed movies (hokey dialogue, undeveloped subplots, and overtly obvious life lessons disguised as metaphors) and through it’ll appeal to its core demographic, casual viewers, however, will be left in the dust. 

The story of how Doug White (played by Dennis Quaid) managed to communicate with mission control towers and essentially get an emergency crash course in landing an aircraft on the fly, with his family onboard, should be riveting source material, but “On a Wing and a Prayer” doesn’t understand the situations immense severity. Instead, the movie puts emphasis on outside observers, including an alcoholic flight operator; annoying young children with aviation obsessions, and a sheltered flight instructor trying to make amends for their past. Sans the children, everyone comes with various forms of baggage: whether its communication issues or getting off the wagon, their overall purpose in the film is never more than routine and is written into the script for dramatic emphasis. 

Likewise for Doug’s wife Teri (played by Heather Graham) and two children, Bailey (Abigail Rhyne) and Maggie (Jessi Case) who exist as caricatures without any personality. They are a coagulation of ideas (the loving wife and bickering sisters) to the point that Bailey has a peanut allergy, but Terri, who is doing nothing but sitting in the cockpit looking flustered and scared for half the movie, can’t be bothered to help her dying daughter after she accidentally ingests a chocolate bar with nuts. Speaking of which, shouldn’t Maggie know this and, I don’t know, not give her sister something that could potentially kill her? Why is this scene even in the movie?! 

There are several more examples like this with zero regard for normal human behavior throughout “On a Wing and a Prayer,” and the movie ultimately boils down to cheap cutscenes (and even cheaper graphics as the flying sequences look borrowed from a nineties flight instructional video) that involve people reading manuals and giving landing tactics over the radio. Oh, and occasionally someone will spout some type of religious scripture and there’s a hilarious “Hallelujah” needle drop that almost pushed the movie into so-bad-it’s-good territory. Alas, things get slightly intriguing during the closing credits where we learn about the real Doug White and his extraordinary efforts that saved his family's lives. There’s a better movie out there to tell his story, but “On a Wing and a Prayer” unfortunately ain’t it. 

Grade: D- 

ON A WING AND A PRAYER debuts on Amazon Prime Video Friday, April 7th. 

1 comment

1 Comment

Apr 07, 2023

The film wasn't made for streaming, it meant for theatrical release for Summer 2022. It's distributor was then bought by Amazon and the film's release was rescheduled to Easter 2023.


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