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  • Writer's pictureCollin Souter

eFilmcritic Archive: "Broken Bridges" (2006)

I saw the Toby Keith vehicle “Broken Bridges” via an unexpected and bizarre digital video presentation at the Lincolnshire Theater in an auditorium that smelled like a urinal cake. This seems appropriate, since at one point I thought the movie should be dubbed “Yellow Rain,” playing off the title of the equally silly, but far more entertaining Prince movie from 22 years ago. Okay, it’s not a particularly clever joke, but it was the only moment during the movie where I felt somewhat inspired. The rest of the time I just felt as though I was being punished for just walking into the movie theater. Imagine how I would have felt if I was actually a Toby Keith fan. Does this theater intentionally punish its patrons for having bad taste?

True, I’m not a country music fan. I tried, though. Really, I did. I dated a girl for nine years whose father sang in a country band, so I tried to develop some kind of appreciation for it. Any kind! It just didn’t take. I do, however, tend to gravitate toward the often overlooked genre of alt-country. Wilco, Neko Case, Steve Earl, Kathleen Edwards, etc. I could listen to that all day. Furthermore, the Neil Young concert movie “Heart of Gold” from earlier this year, and which has roots in country music, moved me deeply. But the netted baseball cap kind, no can do. I have an equally hard time with movies starring country singers that happen to be about country singers. When you get a film such as this, you can pretty much count on a few things:

  1. This country singer’s coming home.

  2. He used to drink, but not anymore

  3. He’ll have two old friends in this town: Fat Guy and Skinny Guy

  4. He has some ‘splainin to do as to why he’s been gone so long

  5. He’ll sing his heart out at the end

The movie deviates from this formula in one respect, that of the song at the end. The rest of the movie proceeds just as you would think. Toby Keith plays Bo Price, a washed-up, stumbling flounder of a musician who returns to a small town to attend the funeral of his brother, who got killed in the war in Iraq. Bo’s ex-wife Angela (Kelly Preston) also happens to be there filming a spot for a news segment. Their 16-year old daughter Dixie (Lindsey Haun) is with her as well. Also lurking within this town are Angela’s parents, played by Burt Reynolds (who still looks pissed about “Stroker Ace”) and Tess Harper.

Of course, Dixie is a wild teenager who dresses differently from the rest of this plaid and denim town. She hooks up with one of the crazier youngins’ and ends up drunk at a party where she’s about to become his regular Saturday night thang. But Toby Keith comes to the rescue and smacks the daylights out of this punk for trying to have his way with her. This eventually brings Bo and his daughter closer. Moments later, she is singing a song to him that she wrote. They start to form a bond while he playfully makes fun of her style of music (she, in turn, should be making fun of his acting).

Meanwhile, Bo sees it as his responsibility to use his superstar clout to put together a benefit concert for the grieving widow of his deceased brother. As soon as he has this realization, the movie immediately cuts to Bo standing outside a gigantic black bong with wheels. Yes, that would be Willie Nelson’s trailer.

So, you can see where this will all be going, right? The movie exists as a star vehicle for insert-country-performer-here. They happened to get Toby Keith, who has about as much screen charisma and acting ability as the Empire Carpet spokesman. He can’t even seem to write a song convincingly. The movie requires him to do spontaneous things like swim in a polluted lake (no, not Lake Minitonka), but it looks more like the foolish act of a developmentally stunted man-child who doesn’t know any better. His character used to be a heavy drinker to the point where he couldn’t remember his lyrics on stage. I may be a bit of a masochist, but if we have to sit through a bad performance, I wish that would have been the movie.

Broken Bridges might have worked if the story and direction hadn’t been so cliché and stilted. Perhaps if it starred Tim McGraw, whose performance in “Friday Night Lights was one of the best of 2004, the movie would have at least had a decent performance to ground it. Preston has nothing to do and Burt Reynolds just looks annoyed. Lindsey Haun appears to be the film’s only bright spot and the song she sings isn’t half bad either. Unfortunately, the scene in which she sings it couldn’t possibly be more embarrassing.

Country music remains a moneymaker in the record industry and so I have no doubt that the movie was conceived as a means of cashing in somehow. Unfortunately, the movie plays into the stereotypes associated with people who listen to and play country music. With bombastic ballads, clunky storytelling and forced sentiment, “Broken Bridges” feels about as sincere and insightful as a Schlitz-induced rendition of “Achy-Breaky Heart.” It’s not something you want to endure for too long and feels just as tedious, almost like a bladder full of Colt 45. You just want to relieve yourself of it as soon as possible, whilst hoping the smell of the urinal cake will be sufficient enough to cloud the rest of your senses.

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