Judge David Johnson won at spin the bottle and got to spend seven days in utopia.
Our review of Seven Days in Utopia, published December 4th, 2011, is also available.
Life is never the same once you've been in Utopia.
Golf, God, and Duvall; has someone discovered the formula for a winning Christian film?
Facts of the Case
Promising pro golfer Luke Chisolm (Lucas Black, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift) experiences a legendary meltdown on the final hole of a prestigious golf tournament and leaves in an embarrassing huff. He ends up in a small Texas town of Utopia and meets former-golfer-turned-wise-old-sage Johnny Crawford (Robert Duvall, Apocalypse Now), a world-weary man with more talking points and platitudes than an Obama speech. But he knows his golf…and is seemingly content with life. So Luke listens and for seven days Johnny breaks down his bad golfing habits and rebuilds them, shaping the young pro into a potential world-beater, while simultaneously stamping him with important life lessons and faith.
Ever on the prowl for God-friendly moviemaking that is neither corny nor amateurish, I went into Seven Days in Utopia with a relatively weighty set of expectations. Joining Black and Duvall is Melissa Leo (The Fighter), delivering perhaps the most impressive cast a Christian film has ever boasted. It also looks legit: well-shot, well-framed, and a decently-financed motion picture endeavor.
Unfortunately, my somewhat high hopes were dashed. All that stuff about the direction, the acting, and the look hold true. This is a competent film. But we need more than competent, if it's going to make a dent. Ultimately, what we have is a nice-looking, saccharine, and extremely derivative comeback tale, featuring all the tropes and genre clichés we've seen before…
• Local jerks who belittle the new guy/protagonist.
• The meek girl who's supposed to end up with one of the jerks, finds herself mysteriously attracted to the good-looking golf stud who happens to not be one of the 350 people she sees every single day of her life.
• An antiquated sensei with an unending font of folksy wisdom.
• A series of unorthodox training solutions (visualize you golf shot and paint it with watercolors! fly-fish off an unsteady rowboat for some reason.
• The Big Sporting Event Finale, matched up against the fictitious best player in the world (real-life pro KJ Choi), where the final hole and the championship comes down to utilizing a plot device introduced earlier only to be employed "when the time is right."
• And then…the cliffhanger. Well, actually, the climax cuts off and we see a title card directing viewers to a website to learn what actually happened. It's a cheap ploy and more than little irritating. On the other hand, author David L. Cook—whose book the film is based on—delivers what is essentially the sum total of the Christian salvation message at this site, keeping the feature film from getting overtly preachy.
Nah, the website is a dumb idea. Let's add some more gospel in the film and call it a day.
Oh wait, it's also a commercial for the book's sequel. Gotcha.
On the technical front, the Blu-ray is a solid performer, featuring a rich 2.40:1/1080p (MPEG4-AVC encoded) transfer that delivers on the feel of the Texas setting. It's a clean, warm slice of video fidelity and well-suited towards the film's atmosphere. A DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio is responsible for the sound and, frankly, it has little to do besides pumping out dialogue and some Third Day tunes…both of which it does swell, for what it's worth. Three tiny making-of featurettes (three minutes each) are it for extras.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Why give Melissa Leo such prominent billing when she's criminally underused?
Seven Days in Utopia = Good intentions and capable execution, handicapped by mediocrity.
Is it cool if I leave Utopia a bit early? Yes? See ya.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Arc Entertainment
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