In the 1930's and 40's, Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote nine children's books about her life growing up on the American frontier during the 1870's and 80's. These books, collectively known as the "Little House books," are without any question among the greatest and most beloved ever written for children. It's been over 60 years since the first Little House book was published, but there has not been one decent film\TV adaption of either the books or of Laura's real life. "Beyond the Prairie 2: The True Story of Laura Ingalls Wilder" is another disappointing interpretation.
"Beyond the Prairie 2" is even more disappointing because it has the gall to subtitle itself "The True Story" when quite simply it's not much more accurate than the dreadfully sappy "Little House on the Prairie" TV show. (The TV show's resemblance to Laura's books is superficial at best with only a few character and place names bearing any resemblance to anything in the books.) The plot of "Beyond the Prairie 2" actually resembles one of the TV show's plots- Laura (Meredith Monroe) along with her husband, Almanzo Wilder (Walt Goggins), and their daughter, Rose, move from Dakota to Missouri to begin an apple farm. They encounter prejudice for being "covered wagon people," overcome Almanzo's ill health, help a sad man find some peace, and have a rescue-the-little-girl-from-peril subplot in the end. The only thing missing was Melissa Gilbert frolicking down a hillside as the credits rolled. Although, the movie uses some real names of places and people and some of the events portrayed did occur (the Wilder's did start an apple farm), but it's really just a low budget, TV film which callously uses the name Laura Ingalls in order to attract fans of the TV series who will probably enjoy it because the plot is structured much like the TV series.
Unfortunately, for fans of the books and of the real Laura Ingalls this film will be a disappointment due to its numerous fictions and anachronisms. First off, Laura Ingalls Wilder was certainly an independent and courageous woman, but she was not above the Victorian conventions of her day especially when it came to ladies' fashions. Laura would have been appalled at the appearance of Ms. Monroe. Quite simply Laura would have never dreamed of walking around in public with her hair hanging loose, a man's hat, and no corset as Ms. Monroe does throughout this movie. Also I have no doubt that Laura would have been highly amused to see herself portrayed by a blond actress. One of the recurring subjects of the books was Laura's envy of her older sister's beautiful golden hair because hers was just plain brown. And Mr. Goggins' hair makes him look like he stepped right out of the 1970's TV show, not the 1880's- Almanzo Wilder wore his light brown hair very closely cropped. I know these are quibbles, which probably can be explained by the film's low budget, but one of the big purposes of the books was to tell modern children how people actually looked and lived in the mid-19th century.
Maybe one day a film-maker will really capture the real essence of the books and/or the real Laura Ingalls. Hopefully, a filmmaker who can cut completely loose from the TV show's influences, and really give viewers a chance to see Laura Ingalls' world brought to life with authentic costumes and hairstyles. And above all really show what it was like for young girl to live in the "Big Woods" of Wisconsin, on the prairies of Kansas, Minnesota, and Dakota, and in the tiny town of De Smet, Dakota Territory during the 1870's and 80's. The stories are there, in those wonderful books, and all that is needed is a filmmaker with a vision (and a real budget) to bring them to life.
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