Judge Bill Gibron usually enjoys a fish story. Usually.
Let's go fishing now, everybody's learning how…
Fishing—the great human levelizer. Man vs. minnow. Hero vs. halibut. Damaged loner vs…well, you get the idea. This is the story set-up for The River Why, a well-intentioned but ultimately unsatisfying attempt to turn angling into a universal theme for life. A while back, A River Runs Through It took a similar approach to the concept of finding oneself, and the results were Oscar worthy. Of course, that film had Academy fave Robert Redford pulling the cinematic strings. This has—Matthew Leutwyler? As a moviemaker, the aforementioned has been responsible for such horror spoof stuff as Dead and Breakfast and such student film falderal as Road Kill. So naturally he should be helming an organic drama about a social outsider (Zach Gilford, Friday Night Lights) who is sick and tired of his parents' (William Hurt, The Accidental Tourist and Kathleen Quinlan, Apollo 13) constant bickering. Deciding to do what he does best, he travels to rural Oregon and—you guessed it—goes fishing. Unfortunately, no hijinx ensue.
Instead, The River Why preaches to us in the standard meaningless methodology. It tells us that being true to oneself is better than biting down hard on reality. It expounds a cracked religion revolving around that childhood adage that's paraphrased "don't dream it, be it." It uses Gus' glum demeanor and Gilford's portrayal of same to shame us into caring about such insignificant things as local color and personal quirk. And then, to top things off, a forced romance is tossed in, our hero discovering that girls like icky stuff like baiting hooks as well as the next burly mountain man. For her part, Amber Heard is decent, drawing out attention away from many of the movie's clichés and stereotypes. Heck, everyone is pretty good, with Hurt and Quinlan providing ample reason to chase their clueless son from the nest. But the real problem with The River Why is that we never care. We are never invested in Gus's problems or its sedate solution. We can tell his passive irresistibility will end up paying off, and costing him. It's all too mechanical and meaningless. There may be poetry in the art of fly fishing, but The River Why is some awkward free verse, nothing more.
As for the Blu-ray release, the image for this film is outstanding. It was shot with a Red One digital camera and the 2.35:1/1080i AVC-encoded transfer does a terrific job of capturing all the natural beauty present. Oregon looks amazing, full of lush and verdant backdrops and vistas. There are great contrasts and a load of detail. As for the sound situation, Image gives us a DTS-HD Master Audio track that makes some use of the 5.1 set-up. When we are in natural environs, the speakers spark to life. Elsewhere, you might as well stick with the PCM Stereo. This is especially true of the overall volume level. For some reason, this Blu-ray seems on the low side, aurally. As for added content, there are nearly 40 minutes of cast and crew interviews. They are interesting, nothing more.
While there is no denying the allure of a quiet few hours spent communing with the carp at your regional swimming hole, no one wants to watch a 104 minute movie about it. The River Why may have good intentions. Sadly, it has little else to offer.
Guilty as watching a Bass Master gut his catch.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Image Entertainment
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