Small Town Saturday Night is not the longest movie ever made and neither is it the worst movie ever made, but it certainly feels like both of those things throughout nearly all of its 90-minute run time. Written and directed by Ryan Smith (who gives himself a bit part as a doofy sidekick), Small Town Saturday Night is a thoroughly hackneyed and deadly dull slice of life in a sleepy Southern burg. Although the hook -- Watch Chris Pine, late of Star Trek fame, croon a country tune! -- smacks a little of the recent, Oscar-winning Crazy Heart, there's more heart, imagination and genuine art in that film's trailer than in the whole of Small Town Saturday Night.
Most maddeningly, Small Town Saturday Night throws the viewer into the midst of characters that are ill-conceived, poorly drawn and given paper-thin back stories. The film follows Rhett Ryan (Pine) over what appears to be one extraordinarily eventful day, on the eve of him packing up, leaving the fictional town of Prospect (population 1,382) behind for the promise of Nashville and a career as a singer-songwriter. He's living with girlfriend Samantha (Bre Blair) and her daughter Megan (Kali Majors); Samantha's divorced from the town's sheriff, Tommy (Shawn Christian), although the pair is making furtive attempts at reconciliation.
As Rhett prepares to pull away from the somnolent small town way of life, he hesitates when he learns that Samantha is having second thoughts. Amid that domestic drama, troubled ex-con Donnie (John Hawkes) returns to Prospect, wreaking havoc upon the unsuspecting town. Toss in a few ancillary characters and vignettes -- mostly the Ryan family and a painfully unfunny/insensitive plot thread about whether Rhett's brother Leslie (Adam Hendershott) is gay -- let the film meander between episodes with no real sense of direction and voila: You've got Small Town Saturday Night.
Pine -- whose performance of "Someday Came Today" is, to say the least, anticlimactic -- heads up a cast that could charitably be called inconsistent. Nearly everyone who passes in front of the camera -- including veteran character actors like Hawkes, Brent Briscoe and Lin Shaye -- appears to be phoning it in and/or over-emoting to a spectacular degree. Writer-director Smith can't decide whether he wants to make a Southern potboiler, a gritty cop drama or chronicle the struggles of the artistic class. His lack of focus reinforces Night's drift and hazy momentum; the movie lurches from scene to scene as though it was stitched together from a series of drafts. There's no flow, no semblance of plot worth paying attention to and a cast fairly adrift, with nothing to do.
There's a brief moment, about eight minutes into the film, where viewers can get a sense of what Small Town Saturday Night could've been. It's a throwaway scene, unessential to the plot (such as it is), yet as the camera glides through the dank bar and settles upon some of the grizzled regulars, the town of Prospect bursts to life. It's a verite flourish -- likely unintentional -- that suggests scaling back the soap opera dramatics and simply observing life in Prospect might've yielded something worth watching. Unfortunately, writer-director Ryan Smith attempts to do too much with too little and winds up with one of the year's worst movies.
Small Town Saturday Night arrives on DVD with a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Filmed with digital video cameras, the film often suffers from flaws inherent in that process, such as glare, washed out images and occasional softness. That said, the visual end of things manages a few flashes of beauty, be it a bucolic creek or deep woods. Not great, but not horrible (unlike, say, the film itself).
The English, Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack does its job without much in the way of flash. Dialogue, music and sound effects, from gunshots to barroom chatter, are conveyed crisply, cleanly and clearly with no distortion or drop-out. Optional English and Spanish subtitles are included.
Nary a bonus feature to be found, although a handful of trailers is included on the disc.
Small Town Saturday Night is not the longest movie ever made and neither is it the worst movie ever made, but it certainly feels like both of those things throughout nearly all of its 90-minute run time. Written and directed by Ryan Smith, Small Town Saturday Night is a thoroughly hackneyed and deadly dull slice of life in a sleepy Southern burg. Smith's lack of focus reinforces Night's drift and hazy momentum; the movie lurches from scene to scene as though it was stitched together from a series of drafts. There's no flow, no semblance of plot worth paying attention to and a cast fairly adrift, with nothing to do. Skip it.