The harrowing kidnapping ordeal of young Elizabeth Smart has been given the homogenized Lifetime movie retelling. In the 1980’s and 90’s this type of filmmaking would have been salacious movie-of-the-week fodder, given to high ratings and water-cooler conversation. Today, it feels too lightweight for such a traumatic real-life story. As the minor film played out I couldn’t help but think what HBO films could have done with this same material. As it’s presented, I Am Elizabeth Smart is designed to inform, but not enrage (or engage) the viewer about the disappearance of a child from her home.
The lives of Ed and Lois Smart are forever changed when their fourteen-year-old daughter, Elizabeth (Alana Boden) is abducted – at knifepoint, from her bedroom. The kidnapping becomes national news as an exhaustive search begins from coast-to-coast. However, the young girl is holed up only miles from home, a hostage of the religious zealot, Brian David Michael (Skeet Ulrich). While authorities canvas and hope grows thin, the Smart family struggle to maintain their optimism that Elizabeth is alive.
The true crime story surrounding the abduction of Elizabeth Smart is harrowing, emotional, and bizarre. Unfortunately, this TV-movie never comes close to mounting any intensity during the event or emotional impact in its resolution. I am Elizabeth Smart is a safe, undistinguished bio-pick about a chilling and memorable search and rescue. The real-life Elizabeth Smart narrates the film in a series of voice-overs adding a touch of authenticity.
Director: Sarah Walker
Stars: Alana Boden, Skeet Ulrich, Kiefer O’Reilly