Director: The Goetz Brothers
Starring: Josh Duhamel, Dan Fogler
It's always dangerous to put the weight of a movie's success squarely on the shoulders of two actors. Now, you could argue that in most films the pressure is on someone to make it or break it. Look at any big name actor project; the movie relies on them and if they're off than the movie could fail. But they usually have a supporting cast, theme music, an old veteran like Alan Arkin or someone to give them a boost. Conversely, in a film like Gravity, which comes out soon, the only actors are Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. No John Goodman popping up to make us laugh, no catchy Aerosmith song. And Scenic Route is the same way, with a much more dangerous duo to entrust with the success of your film. Josh Duhamel is at least a known heartthrob (Transformers, Safe Haven), but Dan Fogler isn't all that famous (Good Luck Chuck, Take Me Home Tonight). It was risky to hand these two the entire film, set them in a desert, give them nothing but each other to work with, and hope for the best. Well, it could have been worse, but don't expect Cast Away.
Mitchell and Carter used to be best friends. Mitchell played guitar, Carter wrote novels, and life was good. The pals were young & carefree, living their dreams and not conforming to what society wanted them to be. That is, until Mitchell got his heart broken, losing the girl who he was crazy about. Since then he has gone down a different path; marrying the first girl he dated after the breakup, having a kid, giving up on his music, buying a house, getting a job, and becoming the person that he never thought he would be. He and Carter gradually drifted apart, as the two friends started living separate lives and Carter's style no longer meshed with Mitchell's new-found normalcy.
Well, Carter isn't going to abandon his old friend without a fight. He plans a road trip with Mitchell, driving him in his old Ford truck that's also his home, crossing the desert in search of the bond that they used to have. Things seem hopeless and nothing is getting resolved or even discussed, until suddenly the truck breaks down. Literally in the middle of nowhere, the friends begin to talk. They open up, share their feelings, and there's a glimmer of hope that their old happiness can be renewed. That is, until they start to panic. No one is coming, the nights are freezing, hunger & thirst set in, and the pair begin to wonder how they will ever get out of this wasteland alive. When secrets are revealed and the laws of society begin to crumple true natures emerge, and the desire to live might outweigh all bonds of friendship.
It really could have been much worse. Neither of these actors had anything close to an Oscar-winning performance, but they both held their own in what must have been difficult roles to pull off. I tried to keep that in mind while I was watching the film; this isn't easy, they've got nothing but their own acting talent to lean on, and they're baking in some remote California desert. Josh Duhamel did a good job as Mitchell, the sell out who needs a disaster in order to remember what life really means. Kinda cheesy, and that's pretty much how it was played, but not awful. Dan Fogler was actually slightly more believable as Carter, the bum who is at least trying to live the dream. He pulled off being the funny asshole friend with a sensitive side who makes bad choices but who ultimately has good intentions. Again, maybe not the most original characters, but both actors did a fine job with the roles that they were given.
The message of the movie may have been the best part. I'm not gonna say that it was the most groundbreaking film or that after I watched it I began beating my brow and screaming, "Now I see! Now I know!" But the simple things it was trying to say came through pretty clearly: life is fleeting, dreams are important, friendships should be cherished, you've got to make yourself happy before your life can be a happy one. Things like that; not amazing but genuine. And that was what impressed be about the plot; for an unlikely scenario the story was pretty genuine. The film had some really honest things to say about marriage, having children, being responsible, being a man. None of those things is easy and the filmmakers & the actors succeeded in being realistic with how tough it is to "do the right thing". The characters were great representations of different paths that we all might take, depending on the choices we make early on in our lives.
Now, not everything was warm, fuzzy, and introspective. The film had a very hard edge, a lot of violent discussions and violent outbursts as this miniature society began to crumble. A few of the conversations between the friends became the high points of the film, while conversely some of the tiffs between them became the low. Although both of these guys did a fine job, neither of them was strong enough to switch back & forth between drama, comedy, aggression, compassion. Those heavy moments were when things got a little weak. Again, I tried to remember what a hard job these roles and conditions must be, but it's their job to make me forget that, not my job to give them a break. And that pretty much sums it up; it was a good movie, not a great one, and I'd have to give it a lot of slack if I were to recommend it. So I guess it's up to how forgiving you're feeling; if you are willing to give it the benefit of the doubt then you'll probably enjoy it. If you're planning on being tough, than this isn't a film that will stand up to a ton of scrutiny.
Video: With an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, the video was a good quality. The desert set lent itself to some pretty nice shots, and the picture was crisp & clear. The film was shot using an Arri Alexa and a Red Epic camera, with Zeiss Super Speed and Angenieux Optimo Lenses.
Audio: The film was done in Dolby Digital, with your choice of either English 5.1 or English 2.0. There were no major glitches or unbalanced mixing; the sound quality was fine.
Extras: There are not many extras to choose from. You can turn on audio commentary with the Goetz Brothers and Josh Duhamel, and there is a trailer for the film.
Rent It. It's not an amazing film by a long shot, but there are a few parts that make it a worthwhile watch. There is an honest message and some pretty good acting, as long as you're prepared to forgive a few flaws. If not, better steer clear. The video quality was good, audio was fine, and extras were minimal. You can easily see better, but you can also get much worse, so stick this one somewhere in the middle and move on.