It seems like every generation (or so) stumbles across what it thinks is a truly original idea when the truth is it’s been done before not once but perhaps many times. Either ignoring this reality or being entirely ignorant of it, whoever has the idea decides it’s fresh and inviting, and he sets out to capitalize on it for that current audience. He crafts a screenplay. He shops it around and secures a buyer, who fast tracks it into production with some big name star attached. Never once does anyone stop to look at whether or not this story has been done before. Never once does anyone question whether this story needs to be done again. In the end, the audience is left with little more than a contemporary take on the classic ‘twist’ story … when maybe going back and exploring the original might prove more rewarding.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
Life-long friends Mitchell (played by Hollywood pretty boy Josh Duhamel) and Carter (the slacker acclaim of Dan Fogler) decide to take a road trip for the sole purpose of catching up when one bad decision puts them stranded on a highway in the middle of – quite literally – nowhere. As the minutes turn into hours, they begin to emotionally deconstruct the other, inadvertently growing more and more hostile. Eventually, frustration turns to anger which leads to panic, and before it’s all said and done their friendship might be put to the ultimate test in this thriller directed by Kevin and Michael Goetz.
In the eighth grade, I read this story. Oh, to be fair, it wasn’t exactly this story, but it was as close as you could possibly get. Instead of the desert, it was a vast, green countryside. And instead of two characters discussing their lives it was a young boy who believed he could fly a self-built airplane when everyone else warned him it wasn’t probable. Essentially, it had the same theme, the same idea, and the same ending (questioning one’s reality). And, unfortunately, this kind of thing happens all too often in the place as magical as Tinseltown where apparently no one’s ever read a book or cracked open a collection of short stories where these types of tales – think of them as more character-driven TWILIGHT ZONE narratives – exist a dime a dozen. A lot of excitement goes into them, and they get slickly made, but, in the end, it’s all been done before.
Unfortunately, there’s reality and then there’s “reality” (what we perceive as the real world); and, in the real world, these two friends have to be guilty of making one dumb decision after another. Of course, I’m not speaking about the decisions upon which they base their respective life examinations; rather, I’m speaking about what to bring with you in the car when you’re going on a long road trip through basically unpopulated areas as well as what to do if your car breaks down in the middle of nowhere and what to use what little battery power you may have for and what not to use it for. The script by Kyle Killen – whether deliberately or not – focuses on some very stupid decisions in the tragic lives of these two, and I’m sorry but these two boneheads are dictionary definitions for “bad judgment” if there ever were.
However, I’d be a fool if I didn’t give a polite shout out to Duhamel and Fogler. They do nice work here, given the limitations of the script, and that’s worth a mention. Duhamel cleverly taps into that “if you don’t look pretty, you might score points with critics,” and, while it may be true, I’d certainly like to see him find material with more meat on it, because the evidence is here that he could definitely put his back into it. That might be something to see.
SCENIC ROUTE (2013) is produced by Anonymous Content and Best Medicine Productions. DVD distribution is being handled by Vertical Entertainment. As for the technical specifications, no expense has been shared in bringing this pop culture friendly film to life, and you’re rewarded with the best sight and sound possible. (Would you expect anything less from a Josh Duhamel feature?) I’d also like to point out that the film played as an Official Selection at 2013’s SXSW Film Festival. Lastly, if you’re looking for special features, then you’ll have to settle for an audio commentary compliments of the Goetz Brothers and Duhamel because that’s all they left for you.
RECOMMENDED. SCENIC ROUTE may not be all that fresh or original, but it is entertaining and well performed by its stars Josh Duhamel and Dan Fogler. You wouldn’t be all that far off in thinking of this as MY DINNER WITH ANDRE for Generation X. No, it probably isn’t any award-winner for the silly season, but it’s an entertaining 90 minutes if you have 90 minutes to spend. Granted, if you’re anything like me (read a lot of pulp fiction, watch an awful lot of movies, etc.), you’re likely to see that ending coming a mile off, but that doesn’t make it necessarily any less effective as a diverting thriller. Just – and I do mean this – don’t look for this one to change your life the way it might make you believe it changed the lives of its characters.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Vertical Entertainment provided me with a DVD copy of SCENIC ROUTE by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.