Metaphors and male-enhancement jokes aside, “Growing the Big One” isn’t Cinemax fare but actually a family-friendly tale of novelty gourd farming. Shannen Doherty, once television’s bad girl, stars in the corny, or more adequately, “seedy” original pic from Hallmark Channel. At its core, this made-for is akin to “Baby Boom” with pumpkins, as a fish out of water, high-strung city girl moves to the country and finds a man.
Scribes Diane Mettler and Anna Sandor touch upon topical trends — particularly the slow-food movement of know your food, know your farm — as well as a return to the personal service of small businesses as opposed to national chains. Still, these ideas are hitched to a script peppered with tired notions of country goodness vs. urban evils.
Emma Silver (Doherty) is a national radio host in Seattle who simultaneously inherits her grandfather’s farm in Valleyville (a fictional town by all definitions) and is demoted to a video/radio gardening blog. Alas, Emma knows nothing of country life, but has hunky neighbor Seth (“Stargate Atlantis’?” Kavan Smith), the local fix-it man and Stanford grad, to help her with the heavy tilling.
Originally at odds (natch), the two reluctantly form a partnership to grow the biggest pumpkin in Valleyville, worth $50,000 in prize money, with which Seth can stave off the car-repair chain that threatens to kill his small business and Emma can save the farm. With what they believe is Grandpa’s secret farming journal, they just may have a shot. Manure jokes, skunk attacks and rolls in the hay ensue.
“Growing” certainly won’t win any awards for originality, and at times the dialogue smacks dangerously close to drinking-game material, or at the very least unintended laughter. When Doherty’s character declares, “Everything I do ends up with me stinky,” one can’t help but think of her own wildly vacillating TV career.
Still, by today’s starlet standards, Emma’s old antics seem quaint and harmless, and Doherty puts in a respectable performance, showing more warmth and charisma than seen in a good while.
Smith, as Seth, the good-ol’-boy neighbor and love interest, appears out of place with his catalog good looks and a Larry, Darryl and Darryl haircut. There’s more chemistry in their fertilizer concoctions than the onscreen romance. The best relationships are actually with the small-town folk, especially the camaraderie of pumpkin widows — the gals of Valleyville, who get together to drink wine, commiserate and sing to their plants.