The Happiest Place on Earth (Straight Shooter Review)

Posted by on Apr 9, 2018 | 2 comments

Happiest Place On Earth PosterDirector: John Goshorn
Distributor: GnC Films
Genre: Drama/Mystery
Running Time: 81 minutes
Budget: $15,000
Rating: IFCS Rating: Recommended for ages 12 and over (Equivalent to MPAA: PG-13)
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Trailer: Click Here
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Online Purchase: Click Here
Reviewer: Jeremy T. Hanke
Final Score: 7.5/10 – Worth Watching in an arthouse or festival setting

When Jonah (Tom Kemnitz Jr.) and Maggie (Jennifer Faith Ward) move into their dream home in Orlando to start their family, things take a sudden turn for the worse when Jonah loses his job at the local paper. Then, as they’re trying to figure out how to make ends meet to survive their mortgage, Jonah is lost at sea in a mysterious camping accident. Now Maggie has to deal with her grief while trying to do everything she can to save money so she won’t lose the anchor that’s drowning everything in her life: the house.


The Happiest Place on Earth feels like it should’ve taken place during the housing collapse of 2008, but, instead, keeps it to the more here-and-now without requiring a specific situation to motivate the drama.

The acting from both Kemnitz Jr. and Ward are believable and compelling, as is Marco DiGeorge playing attorney Evan Sterling. DiGeorge’s character is able to add a lot of interesting friction to the situation that Maggie finds herself in.

Great commentary on the true cost of the so-called “American Dream”—especially to Millennials who believe they can do better than their parents did at a far younger age. And the ending is both foreshadowed well, yet unexpected for most viewers.


While this is very watchable film that the creators put a lot of time into, its pace is overly slow—especially in getting to the main premise of the camping accident. Smaller issues were the handheld camerawork that got a little too shaky from time to time and the dialogue that, despite being meticulously mastered for high quality sound systems, was a little too soft on more basic speaker configurations.

All in all, though, the positives I mention in the story area make up for the technical issues in watchability.

How Far Did you Watch Through It:



Somewhat like this past year’s The Florida Project (which also looks at what people do to try to survive in Orlando), this film is a bit ponderous and unwieldy. However, it manages to hold your interest even as its main mystery fades into the background in favor of a drama about a young woman trying to uphold things after her husband is gone.

Closing Thoughts

While it’s a slower burn than it needed to be, I enjoyed the thematic exploration of “If the things we own end up owning us, what will we do to keep those things?” In that regard, it gave me a bit of the flavor of movies like Memento.

Final Score:

7.5Worth Watching in an arthouse or festival setting

The director of two feature length films and half a dozen short films, Jeremy Hanke founded MicroFilmmaker Magazine to help all no-budget filmmakers make better films. The second edition of his well-received book on low-budget special effects techniques, GreenScreen Made Easy, (which he co-wrote with Michele Yamazaki) is being released by MWP in fall 2016. He's curently working on the sci-fi collaborative community, World of Depleted, and directed the debut action short in this series, Depleted: Day 419 .


  1. Gavin Salkeld

    When I click the link, it opens to an adware/malware cite. However, right clicking the link and opening in a new tap loads it. Is it just me?

    • MicroFilmmaker Magazine

      Sorry for just seeing this. Our editor was in the hospital when you posted. We were having an issue with a malware attack at that time, but have since gotten it fixed and ensured it won’t happen in the future.

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