“Touchback” is one of those sports
movies that tries hard, but you wish it worked better.
Scott Murphy (Brian Presley) is a
dirt farmer in an age where the guy with the family farm of soybeans just
isn’t going to make a living at it. He’s
already maxed out at the bank, and they won’t loan him any more money.
He has a lovely wife, Macy (Melanie Lynskey) who also loves the farm
life, and two beautiful daughters who come running to see him crying
“Daddy!” every time he walks in the door. But
Scott Murphy is not just miserable because the combine broke and the rains are
coming and the beans got an early frost and the foreclosure papers are already
filed. He still can’t get over the
State championship high school football game, where he was the highly-touted
quarterback prospect, already signed with
, who blew out his knee on the last game-winning play, and there went his
dreams. He’s spent the last 20 years
wishing that he had that game to do over, and obsessing so much about what
might have been that he can’t seem to bring himself to be happy with the
present. And so, on the eve of the big
20th reunion of that magical state championship season, he decides
to end it. Just plug up the exhaust in
the ol’ pickup in the field overlooking the football stadium, and go to
sleep, and all the regrets will be over.
Except that something happens in that
twilight stupor---a kind of wishful return to the glory days, the week of the
big game during his senior year in high school, when he was going out with the
pretty cheerleader (Sarah Wright), and his mother (Christine Lahti) was still
around, and Macy, well, Macy was just a nerd in the band who he didn’t have
time for, but knowing how they later get together, he tries now to be overly
friendly to her, which she finds somewhat creepy.
Actually, the whole scenario is somewhat
creepy. Obviously, you have to make a
decision here, with the casting, whether you’re going to make these
characters believable as thirty-somethings or believable as high schoolers,
but you can’t really do both. Though
Director Dan Handfield gamely tries to have it both ways; it just doesn’t
work. Brian Presley (who’s actually
34), despite his chiseled features, cannot pass for a high school senior.
Even in his dreams. Now they can
put lots of makeup on the Coach (Kurt Russell) and make him look like an adult
who just aged. Kurt Russell has made 91 films and he can actually look
authentic either way. But casting
middle-aged adults as teenagers just isn’t convincing.
The morale to the story is clear:
you can’t go back to your past and make things any different, anyway,
so you might as well just accept it and move on.
Well, that’s probably good advice for anyone covered up with regret
over some decision made or not made as a youth. But you don’t need a whole
awkward-looking movie to make that point.
Of course, most sermons only serve to
remind us of what we already know. But
this one seems particularly preachy.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Interim Pastor,
St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church,