With his parents having separated, Matthew Stevenson (Dakota Daulby) is an angry teenager, especially with God as he prayed for his parents to stay together but they didn't. It is why he ended up taking a baseball bat and a spray can to the local church and having been caught has to make amends. It is how he comes to meet Ernest (John Ratzenberger - Toy Story 3), an old woodcarver who agrees to carve the decorations to repair the church taking Matthew under his wing. Through Ernest living his life by "What Would Jesus Do" Matthew starts to see another side to life. But there is trouble going on as Matthew's dad is a builder who works for a company that doesn't want Ernest to carve the wood for the repairs as they want the contract.
Every young boy needs an Ernest in their lives, they need someone outside of their family to put a calming hand on their shoulders and guide them in the right direction, to think before they act and see the bigger picture. But as "The Woodcarver" shows it is not just teenage boys who need the calming wisdom of an older man as everyone could do with an Ernest in their life to calmly, and some times cannily, point people in the right direction when it comes to doing what is right, even adults who are busy wrapped up in their own lives and the dramas they create. Yes Ernest is almost a super hero whose power is sage wisdom and the ability to use it just at the right time whilst also seeing the good in people.
As such it is very much the exceptional casting of John Ratzenberger as Ernest which makes "The Woodcarver" such a captivating and charming movie. In fairness all the casting is good with everyone playing their parts well, especially young Dakota Daulby. But to sound like a broken record it is John Ratzenberger perfect performance, that sageness which he brings to the role to make it feel like he is just being himself which makes the movie.
I suppose I should mention the elephant in the room because "The Woodcarver" is a piece of Christian Cinema with the whole element of living life asking the question of "What Would Jesus Do" when faced with a choice. The thing is that whilst the movie doesn't shy away from mentioning Jesus and doing the right thing it isn't overly preachy in doing so and so not only allows the more casual message of doing the right thing to shine through but has the potential to work for those who aren't already a Christian when they watch this.
What this all boils down to is that "The Woodcarver" is a charming little movie which whilst coming under the Christian Cinema heading works for a much wider audience especially those who enjoy the performances of John Ratzenberger as well as a wholesome message.