3 out of 5 Stars
Creators: Carol Barbee, Dennis Liu
Starring: Alisha Wainwright, Ja'Siah Young, Sammi Haney
Genre: Sci-Fi, Drama
SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV) – Synopsis: Following the mysterious death of her husband, Nichole tries to raise her son Dion while struggling to keep her head and finances together. The situation becomes increasingly difficult when Dion begins to manifest superpowers.
Review: Michael B. Jordan plays Dion’s father in flashback scenes. He is also one of the show’s producers. This makes it easy to draw a line of comparison to the Jordan-produced film “Kin.” That movie is also about a young boy with identity issues and has sci-fi elements. The major different here being that “Kin” didn’t know if it wanted to be an edgy thriller or a family-friendly romp. It ended up being neither of the two. The film’s ending was the only aspect of the film that worked; it was a long slog through construction sites, strip clubs and abandoned buildings to get there.
In “Raising Dion” we have a story that is built on genre tropes. So, don’t be surprised if it feels familiar. It’s a mashup of the trials of being a single parent compounded by the mysterious nature of her son’s burgeoning powers.
To its credit, the film knows that it is a family-friendly drama with sci-fi elements. It never pushes the envelope; it’s happy to just be what it is. No matter how strange things get, they’re never that strange. There is occasionally a glimpse of danger, but there’s no real tension.
There is a rigidity to some of the performances, but I like Alisha Wainwright as Dion’s mother and I warmed up to newcomer Ja'Siah Young as Dion. I never quite understood what Jason Ritter was doing with his character, but that appears to have more to do with the writing than it does with his acting abilities.
There are some life lessons to be learned in “Raising Dion” and the general inclusiveness of the cast is appreciated. Still, it isn’t remotely as atmospheric or thrilling as “Stranger Things” (which is referenced in a ring tone). I liked the series, but I’m not clamoring for more. Younger audiences might feel differently.