All the audience knows about Samuel Whitehead is that he was a marine who paid his way through seminary while working at a brickyard. Why not a scene telling us what gave the good minister his calling? Somehow Whitehead's enabling mother-in-law and completely worthless brother-in-law have mooched their way into his home. These characters were not comical and added little to the story. The kids seem mere ornamentation and serve only as part of the dilapidated school subplot which again wraps up too quickly and arrives too late.
With the great cast, great setting and a plot full of potential, this could have been a great family classic that launched Andy Griffith into a new level of stardom. Unfortunately, all these elements never gel as they should and what results is a lackluster film with only a few chuckles here and there and little else.
The whole kidnap drama was wrapped up too cleanly. Laura and Almonzo take back Rose with just an apology and then leave the orphan boy with the family. It is obvious the woman had some mental instability and they left the boy with her? He immediately calls the man "dad" too and I highly doubt the orphanage in Mancato would just say "Oh, thanks" when they were given word the child was left behind with a family a few towns over.
In addition to these gripes, the pacing of the episode was just slow and failed to keep my interest.
As the film progresses, Walt's love and adoration of the Hmong children next door seems to come a little too quickly. Sure, we want him to befriend them and like them, but it doesn't take long before he is drinking beer with them and giving love advice to the kid next door.
However, the film is not without its strong points. Having Thao work off his debt by fixing up the neighborhood was a masterful move in the film. Walt is able to teach the boy something and see his old neighborhood improved. The scene where Walt rescue Sue from the three men on the corner was also very well done. It was a wonderful example of the clash between races and generations that existed in the decaying neighborhood. It was also fun to see Clint Eastwood in a "kick-ass" moment again. It brought back memories of the tunnel scene from Dirty Harry.
The film concludes with what is to be expected. Everything has been overly crafted throughout the film that the ending should come as no surprise.