Saturday, February 20, 2010

Worst of the Worst: #72, Broken Bridges

As I look at Rotten Tomatoes' list of the worst 100 movies of the last decade, I see a few that I'm excited to watch. The Uwe Boll movies, obviously, for their sheer carelessness. The #1 movie, Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever, because it's #1. Some of the "classic" bad movies, including Basic Instinct 2 and Gigli. After today's film, I have watched twenty-four of the hundred movies. Those movies I'm looking forward to total maybe six or seven? In order to make sure I'm not stuck watching movies that will be painful to me at the end (for instance, every single Larry the Cable Guy movie is on the list), I'm trying to work them in early and save the "good" ones for later. Hence, today I watched Broken Bridges, a production of Country Music Television, starring Toby Keith.

Now, I admit that I'm not the target audience for such a movie. I don't like country music, particularly the modern variety. I don't like stories about people going to back to their hometowns to realize where they came from and why their big city life is so damaging. I don't like movies about good-hearted people who say things like, "it's the Christian thing to do." So, know that I watched this with my Blue State, Megalopolis-living, Jewish, liberal filter on. And the verdict? I don't understand why this movie was on the list.

Sure, it's bad. Toby Keith (as a washed-up country star coming home to attend his brother's funeral) isn't an actor, though he tries hard. Kelly Preston (as the estranged mother of a daughter he's never really met, also coming home to attend her brother's funeral) is not great. Burt Reynolds shows up in a movie for the second week in a row, this time with an okay Southern accent and a really horrific dye job. (An aside: I knock Burt Reynolds like his mere presence is enough to drag a movie down, but that's not really true. He's not a great actor anymore, but he can be very good in small roles, such as in one of the most underrated sports movie ever, Mystery, Alaska.)

Besides most of the acting, there are other faults. The attention to detail is very weak. At one point, Keith is singing a song at a bar and clearly lip-synching. As he finishes a phrase, he pulls away from the mic, but the volume of his voice doesn't change. At one point in the movie, an older woman suffers a stroke. The doctor says that the woman has some paralysis on her left side, yet she looks, acts, and speaks with no such paralysis. The direction is poor; shots either last too long or too short and the meaning of the lingering last shot is entirely undecipherable. The editing is weak; there are a number of scenes that are inconsequential to the story as a whole. The script is not good; a character says at one point, "I don't know which in worse shape: my truck or my love life!" In fact, it seems to pander to the CMT market. There's a scene where the estranged daughter drives a truck in what seems to be a commercial for Ford pickups as the truck drives beautifully through mud and, sure enough, there is a Ford truck commercial music video in the Bonus Features section of the DVD. There is a lot of contemporary country music, to the point that it seems like many scenes are only reasons to play music in the background. The movie culminates in a Disney-fied pop country song performed by the enstranged daughter which seems to only be there to sell records. In this predominantly white town in Tennessee (though there is one black character, an older woman played by Thelma from Amen, who references the Bible and says things like, "Lawdy"), a performance towards the end by Bebe Winans leads to the camera panning to a token black couple in the audience.

Okay, it was bad, but it wasn't that bad in the grand scheme of things. Sure, it should have been a TV movie. There are some okay scenes, though. At one point, Keith and the daughter are writing the song that she sings at the end and it's actually quite sweet. I suppose it was improvised and, as a songwriter, Keith seems much more natural than he does other times. Near the end, the performance by Bebe Winans is actually a song sung by him, Keith, and Willie Nelson. It's the kind of old-time gospel country music that I actually enjoy. It's not my kind of movie, but it certainly, at #72, wasn't nearly as bad as All About Steve at #96 or The Adventures of Pluto Nash at #79.

This is the weakness of Rotten Tomatoes' list. It ranks the movies based solely on their "Tomatometer" rating, so the 5% that Broken Bridges got isn't judged in relation to any other movie. Same reason that All About Steve, the third-worst movie I've seen on this list, is ranked so high. For the record, the only movie that I truly think should be on the list and isn't is Year One, which has a 15% rating on the website. But, the list is and what it is, and every movie I've seen so far is bad, even if this particular one wasn't that bad.

So, I didn't dislike it as much as I thought I would, which I hope is true of all of the movies I'm not looking forward to, though I know it won't be. A lot of movies coming up that I dread. However, next week will mark the twenty-fifth of these films. The quarter pole! To celebrate, I'm pulling out all the stops next week and watching one of the most famously bad movies of all time. I'm very excited. Very. It co-stars one of the actors I mentioned above and the password is "Thetans".

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