Fans of George Strait and classic country music in general adore the 1992 film Pure Country. It won over country fans’ hearts over 25 years ago with its awesome soundtrack and Strait’s acting chops. A decent showing in theaters and Strait’s best-selling non-compilation release seemed to justify more acting roles for the King, if not a string of sequels.
Fast-forward to the next century, and long-awaited follow-up films got green-lit. Sequels in name only, the other two films don’t follow up on the story of Wyatt “Dusty” Chandler. In fact, Strait only appears in the first of two sequels in such a limited role that it feels like a late addition to the script. Even without the original film’s star in a key role, the sequels are ripe with the good intentions and positive messages underlying the first movie’s appeal.
Pure Country 2: The Gift (2010)
After an 18 year wait, fans of Strait and the original film were gifted with a long-awaited sequel. The original film’s director Christopher Cain returned with a script co-written by famous son Dean Cain. Strait returned, too, this time to play himself in a very limited role (even if he does knock out a guy in a very GIF-able scene). The main spotlight instead shone on real-life country singer and songwriter Katrina Elam. As the character Bobbie Thomas, Elam pulls off a small-town girl with a God-given gift that’s the stuff of the Hallmark Channel’s dreams. When her character’s use of that gift breaks a few commandments, a redemption story unfolds.
It’s not high-brow cinema by any means, but it’s still a worthwhile watch. Elam, who’d struggled as a singer up to this point and still has only found success as the songwriter behind Reba McEntire’s “I Want a Cowboy,” Racal Flatts’ “Easy” and a handful of other notable co-writes, shines both as a girl-next-door actress and a talented young vocalist. None of the film’s twists and turns will catch you off guard, but the film definitely has its heart in the right place.
Pure Country: Pure Heart (2017)
The third installment feels more like a continuation of the second film than the original, but that’s okay. A story relatable to young women takes the spotlight once again in this story about family and faith.
The Spencer sisters’ curiosity about their deceased dad they never got to know leads to revelations about his time in the military and his promising career as a singer-songwriter in Nashville. Leads that begin with meeting the bad guy from Total Recall in a nursing home end with the sisters befriending a huge country star who’d collaborated with their father. Men folk pop up throughout the story, from the older sisters’ love interest to a character played by wrestling legend Shawn Michaels, but the story always focuses on the relationships between women from different generations.
An undercurrent in this story about family bonds is its honoring of veterans. The sisters’ discoveries paint their father as a true and selfless hero, with the story culminating with a chance for them to sing on stage with their dad’s favorite singer Willie Nelson at a benefit for the troops.
Like the prior two movies, it was never confused as Oscar material, but its heart was in the right place. So if you see the title Pure Country on any film, expect family-appropriate entertainment with a positive message, with or without Strait songs.