Pros: Good family film with excellent values
Cons: Lackluster acting, little attention to historical facts.
To say that "Seven Alone" is based on a true story is not entirely accurate; it would be more honest to say that it was "inspired by actual events." There was a family named Sager who traveled with a wagon train headed for Oregon, the parents did die and leave seven orphaned children, and the children did eventually end up at the Whitman mission. That's about it for the facts. Still, "Seven Alone," based on Honore Morrow's book, "On To Oregon!" is an interesting and entertaining family film that has not-so-subtle lessons about faith and courage and obedience.
The film's hero is thirteen-year-old John Sager, played by Stewart Petersen. Petersen appeared in several Doty/Dayton kidflicks and then apparently left the show business world, which, frankly, is just as well. I'm sure he was a really nice kid; however, he was no acting prodigy. He did a fair job in this one, as the sullen, lazy son of Henry and Naomi Sager, whose only goal in life seems to be finding new and improved ways to disobey and dishonor his folks. John is forced to grow up overnight, however, when his parents both die on the Oregon Trail and he abruptly becomes the head of his family - five younger sisters, including an infant, and a younger brother, played by Petersen's brother Steven.
John is determined to take his little family all the way to Oregon to fulfill his father's dream of a farm in the Wilamette Valley, and he manages to outwit the grownups who want to break up the family and return the children to relatives in Missouri. In reality, John did not undertake this journey alone, and the intent all along was to get the children to the Whitman mission so that they could live there until the boys were old enough to start a homestead. Sadly - and you can bet THIS broke my heart when I was 11 - most of the Sager children were killed in an Indian raid on the mission three years after they were adopted by the Whitmans. When I found that out, while doing research for a report, it kind of ruined the whole thing for me.
But I don't guess any of that really matters. This movie shows John's growth from a spoiled little boy to a responsible young man. It depicts, fairly vividly, the dangers and hardships of the trail, and shows the strength and faith of these young pioneers. If it is not completely accurate, it is nevertheless a great adventure story. Fine family viewing for ages 7 and up.