The day that most of us in the home video review business has been dreading has finally arrived. Anchor Bay has sent me my first Blu-ray screener. For those who might not know, a screener is a disc given to guys like me to write a review of the given film or television series. Unlike what we call Final Product, the disc often comes in a sleeve with no case or box art. The disc itself is usually does not include graphics, containing merely the name of the film and possibly the studio. The contents might or might not reflect what you, the consumer will get should you decide to purchase the disc. DVD screeners have often been single layer DVD-R copies, which look far worse than what the Final Product might look and sound like. Often the name of the studio and something like “property of” appears anywhere from constantly to every few minutes in the viewing area of the film. In the case of this Blu-ray screener, it appears that the contents could well be what the consumer will see, but lacking an actual consumer disc, I just can’t be sure. In the past, we here at Upcomingdiscs simply declined to review these types of releases. When I took over in December, I decided to include the titles, but avoid reviewing all of the aspects of the disc that we simply can’t be sure about. Thus was born the No Huddle review.
Now, these screeners are used for any number of reasons. The most common seems to be a worry that a reviewer might make copies of the film and try and sell or release the film in some way. Since we often get titles up to weeks before they street at your local video store, there is concern that we might “beat them to the punch” so to speak. Other reasons could involve expense and the amount of confidence the studio has in the release itself. Up until now, Blu-rays have been exempt from this process. The expense of making a limited run Blu-ray isn’t very economical, and the piracy worries are, for the moment, alleviated by the fact that no one has yet broken a Blu-ray to pirate. Whatever the reason, it’s a sad day for us in the business, one that we hope will not become some industry standard. I know it might sound a lot like just some ingrate complaining that he didn’t get a good enough freebie, but it really takes away our ability to adequately inform you about the quality of a release. We’ve always taken pride here at Upcomingdiscs to provide you with the most complete information we can about a given release. A screener simply makes it impossible. So, excuse the long “inside baseball” explanation. So, what about this particular film?
Carlton Garrett (Timberlake) plays baseball on a minor league team. From what we can see, he doesn’t do it very well and is in danger of getting cut. To make his life even worse, his mother (Steenburgen) is in the hospital for a hole in her heart that requires major surgery to repair, or she will die. She is refusing to sign the release papers until Carlton finds his estranged father and brings him to her bedside. Carlton agrees. He finds out that his father, baseball legend Kyle Garrett (Bridges) is signing autographs at a trade show in Ohio. So, Carlton and his girlfriend, of sorts, Lucy (Mara) fly to bring him back to Houston. Kyle, known to fans as The Lone Star, isn’t very thrilled to comply with his ex-wife’s wishes and tries pretty hard to get out of it, including “forgetting” his wallet so that he can’t get on a plane. Unable to fly, the foursome rent a Hummer and begin the long road trip back to Texas. Along the way Kyle continues to disappoint his son and his mixed feelings for Lucy begin to reveal themselves when she announces she’s about to get engaged to another man. The film meanders along as these folks get to know each other and themselves a little better along the way.
The first problem with this film is the casting of Justin Timberlake in the lead as Carlton. The guy emotes about as much as a pet rock. No matter what goes on around him, I just can’t buy into this guy being for real. It doesn’t help that the character carries around a “Why me” complex through most of the film. Even Jeff Bridges can’t seem to catch any steam as the self absorbed baseball legend. There’s no doubt that he provides the best there is in the film, but he can’t carry it by himself. At some point it looks like he just stopped trying. Kate Mara might be a good up and coming actress. We’ll never know from this part. She’s placed very much quietly in the background, so much that when she gets her moments they seem to come out of nowhere. Add to that the fact she shares most of her lines with Timberlake, and I’m afraid the young actress is fighting an uphill battle all the way. Real life couple Mary Steenburgen and Ted Danson have unrelated roles that are more cameos than anything else. Look also for Lyle Lovett as a bartender. The film wants so much to tug at your heartstrings, but it reaches your stomach instead. Maybe that’s why Anchor Bay decided to spring only for the screeners. This one isn’t even worth that plain white sleeve it came in. “Of course, that’s just one man’s opinion.”