BROKEN BRIDGES (2006)
Starring Toby Keith, Kelly Preston, Lindsey Haun, Willie Nelson, Burt Reynolds, Tess Harper, Katie Finneran, Anna Maria Horsford, BeBe Winans, Josh Henderson, Daniel Newman, Steve Coulter and Leland L. Jones.
Screenplay by Cherie Bennett and Jeff Gottesfeld.
Directed by Steve Goldmann.
Distributed by Paramount Pictures. 104 minutes. Rated PG-13.
This film — made under the theatrical arm of cable channel CMT (Country Music Television) — is the acting debut of C&W singing star Toby Keith. Now I have to admit to not being a huge fan of what little of Keith’s work I’ve heard — mostly the jingoistic redneck flag-wavers like “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)” or his constantly played commercials for Ford trucks (which get a significant amount of product placement time here, one scene of a couple of teens four-wheeling in a mud bank may as well have been an ad.) Other than that, all I really know about Keith is of his silly feud with the Dixie Chicks — and honestly I tend to come down on the Chicks’ side of the fence.
That said, while no one could call Keith a particularly deep or nuanced or even good actor, he works it out just fine for what this role calls for — quiet southern stolidness and the numbed indifference and sorrow of a former star on the slide down the hill.
It starts out with what seems to be an inappropriate scene of Iraq soldiers clowning on video cam — until we find out a little later in the film that this tape is of a group of soldiers from a small town in Tennessee who are killed during a training exercise — including the brothers of the two leads in the film. Bo (Keith) is a former country music star now just drinking his way through the casino circuit. Angel (Kelly Preston) moved to the big city (in this case, Miami) to become a TV news personality. Of course, both of them look to be at least 15-20 years older than any of the dead soldiers shown, but okay, we’ll bite.
This tragedy leads to the two of them — who were sweethearts as teens and were going to get married, but he never showed — to return to their small town past for the first time since breaking free decades before. The death of their brothers symbolically help them to come to terms with the ghosts of their past. He meets the teenaged daughter that he fathered with Angel all those years before. Angel also has to make peace with her angry father — another career pit stop for former superstar Burt Reynolds (looking just slightly embalmed in a distractingly jet-black toupee).
The movie is predictable, but it really has some great parts, too. Most impressive is the work of teen actress Lindsey Haun as the daughter that Bo has never before met. Also a singer, Haun (who is the daughter of one of the members of 80s soft rock group Air Supply, of all things…) is a surprisingly natural, fiery and talented actress. Another shock is that she also has the best singing voice in a movie that is full of music.
Also, you have to love any movie which brings in Willie Nelson playing himself for no other reason than that they can, leading to a nice live performance of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” between Keith, gospel singer BeBe Winans and Nelson.
That said, the movie has more than its share of clichés. Some examples: “You don’t stop, you’re going to dig your way all the way to China, girl.” “Mom says you have to leave room for the roots to grow.” “I don’t know what’s in worse shape, my truck or my love life.”
Broken Bridges is the perfect red state movie. It’s cornier than the fields surrounding the town. It wears its passions, family values and patriotism on its sleeve. It is opinionated (maybe excessively), slightly uncouth, oddly romantic in a quiet way, occasionally rowdy, unwilling to swallow any of its pride and stubbornly believes in happy endings. Of course, many of the negatives also rear their head — an inability to connect, several occasions of people speaking out with no warning or reason about decades-old slights, knee-jerk “patriotism,” drunken bar girls, date rape, family divides, brawling, being judgmental of anyone different, excessive drinking and excessive sentimentality.
Yet, not all of it is quite as black and white as you may think. Sometimes when you think the film will be completely predictable, it throws you a change up. For, example, the movie starts with a seemingly pro-Iraq war slant, but you are almost shocked by the venom in Keith’s voice when he declares the senselessness of all these men dying in a “training accident.”
Broken Bridges is not exactly what anyone will call a good film, however it is definitely worth the viewing. (9/06)
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2007 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: January 6, 2007.