I’ve always wondered if utopia really exits. Well, apparently it’s the place where boring golf movies are made.
In all seriousness, it’s actually a small town in Central Texas that serves as the setting for Seven Days in Utopia, a sports movie with a sermon on the side. Or, actually, maybe the sermon was the main course and the sport was the side dish.
Golf doesn’t exactly lend itself to compelling storytelling, and director Matthew Dean Russell wisely plays up the inspirational part of the inspirational sports movie genre with this flick, which should be pleasing to audiences that are weary of the sex, violence and crude language common in most films today.
Seven Days in Utopia serves up some golf lingo (words like birdie, eagle, driver, etc.), and it even features PGA pro K.J. Choi in a minor role, but you don’t need to know anything about golf to understand what’s going on.
The movie, based on the book Golf’s Sacred Journey: Seven Days at the Links of Utopia by David Cook, focuses on Luke Chisholm (Lucas Black), fresh off a meltdown on the golf course. He crashes his car into a fence in a small town, where it just so conveniently happens that the fence owner is a former PGA pro, ready to spout advice and inspiration at a moment’s notice.
Utopia takes on a Karate Kid vibe when Johnny Crawford (Robert Duvall) takes Luke under his wing and teaches him how to maintain his composure not just on the golf course, but in life as well. During Luke’s seven days in Utopia (that’s how long it’s going to take for his car to be fixed), he partakes in exercises such as fly fishing, painting and flying a small airplane, always questioning how that exercise is going to help him become a better golfer.
The movie has a semblance of a romantic plot, but those few parts are almost completely snooze-worthy. In a complete 180 from her True Blood vampire character Jessica, Deborah Ann Woll plays a sweet, horse-whisperer-in-training waitress named Sarah. There’s an obvious attraction between Luke and Sarah, but they don’t even share a peck on the cheek in this abundantly pure film.
As the big-name actor in the cast, Duvall gives the movie some credibility, and this film really appears to be something near and dear to his 80-year-old heart. His performance felt sincere, but that alone couldn’t overcome the droll story and clichéd Karate Kid sequences.
Melissa Leo should be a big name (she won an Oscar this year for her performance in The Fighter), but here she’s reduced to a few forgettable lines as Sarah’s mother.
There is one bit of interesting storytelling worth mentioning; the movie actually ends in a cliffhanger, leaving the audience in the dark about whether Luke made the final putt. The screen literally fades to black and a Web site appears. Will audiences care enough to find out the ending? I didn’t, and I’m probably not the only one.
This little flick (it’s playing only in about 500 theaters nationwide) is little better than a Hallmark Channel (or similar) movie. I predict it will find a happy home in the near future on such a cable TV channel.
Movie Grade: C