Lightning Media // 2009 // 99 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Patrick Bromley // January 5th, 2010
Love's always a gamble.
What an odd, bad movie Taking Chances is. The movie itself is not necessarily odd, try as it might to be so. Its very existence is odd. How such a talented group of people agreed to star in it is odd. How anyone thought it was the least bit commercial is odd. It's just odd.
The usually-dependable Justin Long (Galaxy Quest) stars as Chase Revere, local historian of the town of Patriotville (that's right; the names "Patriotville" and "Revere" are used) who spends his days in a powdered wig working at a historic battlefield site. When the shady mayor of Patriotville (Rob Corddry of What Happens in Vegas, still looking for that breakout role) begins making a deal with a group of Native Americans to level the historical site and build a casino, Chase takes it upon himself to protect the battlefield and stop the casino. Helping him out is a beautiful but secretive girl (Emmanuelle Chriqui, You Don't Mess With the Zohan) that may or may not be a potential new love interest in a town devoid of romantic possibilities. Nick Offerman (so good on Parks and Recreation) and Missi Pyle (Josie and the Pussycats) also show up to be wasted in supporting roles.
Here's something interesting about Taking Chances: it is not about taking chances. At all. Sure, at one point Chase has to decide whether or not to take a high dive into a lake, but that's about as chance-taking as the movie gets. Clearly, this is some attempt to make the film more marketable for its direct-to-DVD release; its original title was Patriotville, which is equally terrible but at the very least more accurately describes what the movie is. Taking Chances is the kind of utterly generic romantic comedy title that may trick one or two people browsing the new releases on a Saturday night, but it's a bait and switch (especially with that cover art; at no point does Chriqui -- or anyone -- use or even hold a playing card) that's not doing the film any favors.
Clearly, Taking Chances wants to be a kind of Garden State-lite, what with its lonely, mopey protagonist, its mysterious manic pixie dream girl (thanks, Nathan Rabin) and its indie-rock soundtrack. The problem is this: Garden State was a polished, effective (if more than a little twee) little movie that was actually about something. Taking Chances is a wrong-headed mix of tones (the Long stuff butts up against broad mugging from Corddry in a subplot that doesn't make sense, and don't get me started on his relationship with Chriqui) and a plot that's paper thin. That would be forgivable if the movie worked as an exploration of character. It does not. Chase's occupation and obsession with early American history is merely a screenwriter's conceit; it's a series of quirks that have nothing to do with who he is as a person. I'm not suggesting he needs to be a weirdo in every aspect of his life, but either his passion for history would inform the rest of his life or his life would inform his passion for history. That's how passions work. This movie doesn't get that. This movie doesn't get a lot of things.
The copy of Taking Chances watched for this review was a studio screener with unfinished audio and video and no bonus features.
Don't risk it.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Lightning Media
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 99 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Taking Chances on Twitter