DALTRY CALHOUN

PG-13
Reviews

Just before Graduation Day rolls around at NYU, UCLA and USC, students are inundated with reminders to attend their annual student film festival. The bad and ugly are tossed in with the good, and ticket holders invariably sit through at least one entry that hangs together like a shower curtain made of Kleenex. Daltry Calhoun would fit that bill.

This is the first feature from writer-director Katrina Holden Bronson, who may have wonderful stuff to come. We have reason to believe that, as there are many fresh and quaint ingredients in Daltry Calhoun. They just don't raise a soufflé. You know a film's in trouble when the audience begins focusing on the bad acting of the background extras as a primary point of interest.

Fledgling leading man Johnny Knoxville is the titular character, a no-good Appalachian backwoods bum who gets his absurdly beautiful wife (Elizabeth Banks) pregnant and soon after leaves her. He then finds God in the game of golf and is a changed and insanely wealthy man on account of the perfectly ordinary-looking hybrid of grass he invents and sells to country clubs. While Daltry is becoming a millionaire, his 14-year-old daughter is unaware of two key things about herself-that she has a father and that she will be able to play the guitar like Django Reinhardt on picking up the instrument for the very first time. Oh yes, and her mother is dying of a terminal disease that can easily be diagnosed by anyone in town from the faint circles under her eyes. Let's see...There's also a kindly and inadvertently hilarious Faulknerian man-child, a hunky Australian (played by a not-at-all-hunky actor), and Juliette Lewis. She at least manages to be modestly charming in an awkward role.

The 14-year-old, June, seems to be the protagonist (despite the title) and is heroically played by Sophie Traub. June has a far too quirky habit of asking people dozens of questions at once without pausing for them to answer. Not even Meryl Streep could act her way through these exasperatingly unbelievable bits.

The film means to be sweetly funny and endearing in the mode of a modern Amurrikin fairy tale. But it's Bronson's inauthentic writing and directionless direction that take the air out of the sails of nearly every scene. It seems everyone involved meant well, but this one moves like an empty boat in a pond.

-Kevin Allison