Judge Joel Pearce was once a sweaty bad boy.
Love is a force you can't control.
The nice thing about Keith is that you can be forgiven for making it through the first part of the film without realizing what you're really watching: a sappy television movie-of-the-week. All the pieces are here: sappy acting, a pathetic teen love story, and a terminal illness.
Oops, I've sort of spoiled the main plot twist, though it shouldn't be too much of a surprise (and it's also revealed in the trailer). At any rate, super-good-girl Natalie (Elisabeth Harnois, Point Pleasant) has her life set up perfectly. She gets great grades, is looking to sail through college on a tennis scholarship, and is starting up a relationship with a hot college guy. All of that comes crashing down when she meets Keith (Jesse McCartney, All My Children), her troubled but brilliant new AP Chem lab partner. He acts as though he has nothing to lose, which horrifies Natalie at first, then starts to draw her in.
Realistically, the only thing to distinguish Keith from a bad TV movie is the 2.35:1 aspect ratio and the lack of commercial breaks. Beyond that, everything we've come to expect from decades of Hallmark Hall of Fame entertainment is here. The biggest problems come with the characters. I found myself not caring about any of them. Natalie is a completely inconsistent character, sometimes a popular sports star, sometimes a brilliant goodie two-shoes sports star, sometimes a bad girl who dry humps boys in her bedroom. If she had an ounce of consistency, she would have figured out what was really going on much sooner, and we wouldn't have to slog through 90 minutes of this garbage.
Then, there's Keith. He's supposed to be this likeable bad boy who turns out to be dying of cancer, but while everything in the plot points toward this startling discovery, nothing about his performance does. Most of us have had the misfortune of witnessing the loss of someone to cancer, and it rarely looks like this. Keith is less than a month away from dying of terminal cancer, and has recently gone through a last-ditch round of chemotherapy. Towards the end of the film, McCartney portrays Keith as being a bit sweaty, but that's as sick as it gets here. It's a bit of an insult to the people who live, and die, through horrible cancer treatments. The main plot twist is also a total cheat on the filmmakers' part, since there's no practical evidence.
I could complain about a number of other things. I could whine about the 24-year-old who plays Natalie's high school boyfriend. I could kick up a fuss about the script, which makes 95 minutes feel like an eternity. In the end, the biggest problem is that the whole thing is just so generic. For teens who haven't been through this whole story before, they may find themselves pleasantly surprised. After all, the acting isn't horrible, and Keith has been well filmed.
I can't say much about the DVD, as I have reviewed an advanced test disc. The 2.35:1 transfer looks pretty rough. While it is anamorphic, the whole image is washed out and hazy. The Dolby 2.0 Stereo track is flat and bland. The disc has no extras.
While some teens might enjoy Keith, it's a pretty painful experience for the rest of us. While it has some decent performances, the script is truly dreadful. Skip this one, unless it shows up on Sunday afternoon television where it belongs.
Guilty, guilty, guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Image Entertainment
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