Judge Jason Panella is planning on buying a unicorn farm with his lottery winnings.
"We figure when something's broken, you find a way to fix it."
Highland Park is a real place, a small city within the borders of Detroit, Michigan. Like the rest of the metropolis surrounding it, the neighborhood has taken a serious blow—the population has dwindled, once-grand factories and blocks have turned into urban moonscapes, and budget cuts have decimated the workforce in almost every sector. The small city is a nice place to set a morality play like Highland Park, even if the film ends up being unsteady on its feet.
Highland Park stars Billy Burke (Revolution) as Lloyd Howard, the civic-minded principal of the city's public high school. He's close friends with a number of teachers and staff at the school—in fact, about a half dozen of them meet regularly at a local bar and hang out. Lloyd and his friends have also been pooling money to play the same lottery number for the past ten years (with no success, of course). After the sleazy mayor (Parker Posey, Best in Show) drastically cuts the school's budget, Lloyd finds himself in a tough situation regarding his friends' employment…a tough situation that a record lottery jackpot could help alleviate.
First-time director Andrew Meieran (who co-wrote the screenplay with Party of Five creator Christopher Keyser) keeps the movie moving along beat by predictable beat. There isn't anything fresh here, really—the story is predictable, the dialogue fair, the acting passable. Almost like a slightly edgier version of a made-for-TV movie. Highland Park even has one of the most obvious uses of the Chekov's gun principle (or Chekov's hacker, in this case) I've seen in awhile. But something about this movie made it go down easily. I think part of the film's winsomeness comes from the cast. Burke does a fine job, and Posey's overacting is surprisingly enjoyable, in a so-bad-it's-good way. The supporting cast is particularly noteworthy, especially Danny Glover (Lethal Weapon), John Carroll Lynch (Fargo), and Kimberly Elise (Close to Home). While they don't have the best material to work with, they still convey the sense most of them have been friends for years, and their group scenes in the local watering hole feel natural. In these parts the movie takes the idea of community and what that means seriously; for as bland as the movie is, it's at least going for something meaningful.
Cinedigm's release of Highland Park is pretty lame: the standard definition 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is fine, but both audio tracks—Dolby 5.1 surround and 2.0 Stereo—are abysmal. Dialogue is often indistinguishable from background noise, a fact that's made more frustrating by the total lack of subtitles. Lastly, there are no extras.
Highland Park isn't noteworthy in any way. To go back to the made-for-TV movie example, it reminds me of the sort of movie you happen upon while channel surfing and end up watching to the end. It's not the kind of movie you'd want to seek out or re-watch, but you're also not sorry you watched it.
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