* (out of four)
After a major meltdown on the course, golfer Luke Chisolm (Lucas Black) swerves around a cow, hits a fence and winds up in Utopia, Texas, population 375. Gosh darn it, who woulda thunk that in this tiny town he’d cozy up to an attractive young lass (Deborah Ann Woll), who’s training to be a horse whisperer BTW, and wise old Johnny Crawford (Robert Duvall), who used to be a golf pro himself. Not reminiscent of “Doc Hollywood” (and “Cars”) at all.
The buzz: Perhaps Black and Duvall filmed this immensely corny drama, based on the book “Golf’s Sacred Journey: Seven Days at the Links of Utopia,” in extra time they had after filming “Get Low” together? Actually, the guys’ lack of chemistry here—Duvall was clearly told to just act really Duvall-y as Johnny guides Luke with unconventional methods like teaching emotional control through fly fishing and putting by tossing washers in a hole—suggests that maybe they tackled “Utopia” first.
The verdict: “Utopia” must have been trying to be as lame and earnest as possible. How else to explain a metaphor of a firefly brightening after being let out of a jar or Luke’s opportunity for a big comeback … only two weeks after failure. Luke’s issues with his daddy caddy (really) receive less priority than his painfully harmless rivalry with a Utopia dude (Brian Gerahrty of “The Hurt Locker”), which at least leads to an unprecedented scene of cowboys trash-talking about golf. It’s impossible not to laugh at the notion of diner patrons in a little Texas town (that still has its own rodeo, of course) watching a show like “Golf Central,” which absurdly broadcasts highlights of intimate conversations between golfers and their caddies. Speaking of little attention to detail: Half-hearted attempts to incorporate messages about God and faith don’t go much farther than people pointing at a Bible.
Did you know? Melissa Leo, Jerry Ferrara and Madison Burge (“Friday Night Lights”) must have jumped at the chance at an easy paycheck for absurdly underwritten roles that barely involve any dialogue. Put on the outfit, show up, get paid: Not bad.
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