'The Pregnancy Pact'

The story is heavy-handed but finally registers its main point with conviction.

Imbued with a strong message but weaselly in its relationship with real-life events, “The Pregnancy Pact” is Lifetime’s latest bit of advocacy filmmaking, using as its backdrop a much-publicized but murky outbreak of pregnancies in Gloucester, Mass.. Oddly structured, the movie’s opening disclaimer simultaneously states that it is both “inspired by” a true story and that any resemblance to actual persons is “purely coincidental” (um, huh?). Setting aside those fact-based underpinnings, the story is familiar and somewhat heavy-handed but finally registers its main point with conviction — serving as a clear indictment of abstinence-only sex education.The movie centers on a group of teenage girls who have ostensibly agreed to get pregnant and raise their babies together, living in some kind of Barbie dream-house fantasy about the magic of pregnancy and joys of motherhood. The principal focus here is Sara (an excellent Madisen Beaty), whose mother (Nancy Travis) heads the local family-values group and strongly resists the argument to teach sex-ed advanced by a concerned school nurse (Camryn Manheim).

What motivated the girls — and specifically, the disputed question of whether their apparent eagerness to become pregnant stemmed from an orchestrated “pact” — never quite coalesces. Writers Pamela Davis and Teena Booth try illuminating the premise through the device of a “video blogger” (an odd heroine, that), thanklessly played by Thora Birch, who investigates what really transpired. Her back story proves the least interesting part of the film, and at times feels painfully obvious in seeking to fill the underlying issues with resonance.

About halfway through the movie, moreover, the “pregnancy pact” story breaks in Time magazine (as it did in 2008), bringing a media frenzy upon the small town. This is illustrated through clips drawn from real-life newscasts, making the initial disclaimer seem even more mealy-mouthed and lawyerly.

For all that, the movie delivers several emotional moments — from the denial exhibited by Travis’ mother, who insists her daughter is “not that kind of girl;” to the painfully naive teens, who harbor a view of pregnancy derived from “a Huggies commercial,” as Birch’s character states, leaving them desperately in need of a “reality check.”

Ultimately, “The Pregnancy Pact” would have possessed more power had the producers gotten off the fence — either developing an original story or more closely adhering to the one that motivated it. And the movie still doesn’t quite capture the complexity of where the educational process with these girls broke down.

Credit Lifetime with an earnest attempt to tackle an important issue, down to the obligatory public-service announcement and outreach campaign. Any resemblance between this and a fully realized movie, however, is purely coincidental.

The Pregnancy Pact

Lifetime, Sat. Jan. 23, 9 p.m.

Production

Filmed in New Orleans by Frank & Bob Films II. Executive producers, Robert M. Sertner, Frank von Zerneck; producer, Christopher Morgan; co-producer, Laurence Ducceschi; director, Rosemary Rodriguez; writers, Pamela Davis, Teena Booth.

Crew

Camera, John Aronson; production designer, Warren A. Young; editor, Tod Feuerman; music, Richard Marvin; casting, Tammara Billik, Jason Wood. RUNNING TIME: 120 MIN.

Cast

Sidney Bloom - Thora Birch Sara Dougan - Madisen Beaty Brady Leary - David Rogers Jesse Moretti - Max Ehrich Michael Dougan - James McCaffrey School Nurse - Camryn Manheim Lorraine Dougan - Nancy Travis

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