Judge Dennis Prince will be back in just a moment. He needs to step over to the curb to scrape this one off his shoe.
Sometimes you have to go back to move forward.
Toby Keith made a name for himself when he grated out, in gravelly voice, the angst-ridden post-9/11 country anthem, "Courtesy of the Red, White, & Blue." The singer and his song became the center of a well-known controversy/confrontation between Keith and the Dixie Chicks—they say his patriotism is born out of ignorance, while he says they're unpatriotic and irrelevant.
There's no denying that given Keith's success as a singer in his own right, not to mention his immediately identifiable Ford Truck ditties that have assailed sports fans for nearly a decade, it would seem logical that he dip the pointed toe of his Red Wing boots into the movie arena.
OK, mister, what can ya do?
Well, it would be unfair to wholly hog-tie Keith for the meandering mess that is Broken Bridges (a co-op venture between Country Music Television and Paramount Pictures) because script writers Cherie Bennett and Jeffrey Gottesfeld seem to have done their research only to the extent of reading "Country Music for Dummies." Tell me if you've heard this one before: a down and out country singer, Bo Price (Keith), has taken to the bottle and appears to be on the brink of losing everything when he learns of the death of his brother in a military exercise. He high-tails it back to his homeland, Tennessee, where he meets up with his former gal, Angela (Kelly Preston)—who is also on a bee-line to Tennessee, since her brother died in the same military accident. She's not too keen on seeing Bo, what after he abandoned her 18 years ago after leaving a bun in the young thing's oven. Now he's meeting his illicitly-conceived daughter (upcoming country pop star Lindsey Haun) for the first time while also dealing with the gruff town patriarch, Angela's father (Burt Reynolds). And while Bo's haunting past could spell disaster in a town where there are more shotguns per capita than teeth, the presence of hometown honor, love of country, and a few inspiring tunes can bring redemption despite the odds.
Isn't that special?
The DVD case sports a "Thumbs up" endorsement from Richard Roeper (of Ebert & Roeper). Yet I have to wonder—was that his take on this film, or was he was taken out of context while trying to dig out a persistent wedgie? Hey, if he liked the film, well that's just dandy, but I remained less than impressed for the duration. While I don't necessarily complain about singers-turned-actors (some do quite well, most don't), I do grumble when a studio and recording label mount such a weak-kneed effort to extend a barely-entertaining music video into a feature film. What's needed here is a vehicle to carry Keith into the next medium with a bit more style and commitment. Instead, Broken Bridges plays out the trite "country music stigma" of high hopes turned to dashed dreams turned to seclusion and substance abuse turned to a reawakening and redemption. To that end, this simply isn't a reasonable tool for the likes of Toby Keith to cut his budding acting teeth on. His performance is passable if uninspired, keeping pace with the tepid plot. Kelly Preston is nice to look at, but also seems rather bored by the whole thing, probably thinking she's heard this in a country music song sometime, somewhere. Newcomer Lindsey Haun is poised to rise up with her performance of "Broken," featured on the companion soundtrack CD.
This new DVD from Paramount looks fine in a 1.78:1 anamorphically enhanced transfer that's as clean and artifact-free as you would expect from a current production. The audio is offered in a less-than-stellar Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround mix, lacking the sort of "oomph" that we'd expect. There's also a 2.0 Stereo track if yer 8-track stereo console can't hack the newfangled technology. There are a few extras on the disc, seemingly tossed in to satisfy a disc production checklist, including a few behind-the-scenes actor interviews and the expected music videos and concert footage.
Incidentally, while I applaud Keith for his convictions to publicly support and honor the good ol' US-of-A, I couldn't help but notice the imprint on this DVD's cellophane wrapper—"DISC MADE IN MEXICO." I wonder if that was supposed to be "NEW MEXICO," home to his friend, Democratic Governor Bill Richardson.
Anyway, the film is guilty as a tick burrowed deep in a hound dog's ear. You'll wanna avoid it lest ya get yourself an infection. Someone should give Keith a shot of the hard stuff and tell him to be more selective next time 'round.
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