2 out 5 stars
One of the tricks about making a film about making movies is not crossing the line into oversharing. Audiences love escaping into other worlds through the imaginations of the creative souls who bring these stories to life. Showing too much of the filmmaking process or the vicious nature of the business can have a reverse effect on moviegoers. Like sausage making, you can love the end product, but most likely do not want to know the process of creating them.
The Comeback Trail is one of these projects that pulls back the curtain on the industry and may have crossed the line of exposing too much. Interestingly, it is a remake of a little known 1982 film of the same name and it is not clear why it was resurrected. Set in 1974 Hollywood, Max Barber (Robert DeNiro) and Walter Creason (Zach Braff) run the grindhouse film production company called Miracle Movies. A company that has not managed to produce a hit film over the years and finds itself in debt to a loan shark, Reggie Fontaine (Morgan Freeman), because of their latest failure.
The uncle/nephew team try to figure out a way to raise the necessary capital to pay off Reggie and to greenlight their next project. Through a series of bizarre events, Max comes up with the idea to produce a film where his lead actor would do his own stunts. Then during filming, one of these situations would lead the actor to his inevitable demise. A result that would be unfortunate, except that the plan would be to insure him and to collect the payout. All seems to be going to plan as they cast the washed-up and suicidal western star, Duke Montana, (Tommy Lee Jones) to play The Oldest Cowboy in the West. The only problem is that this rugged cowboy tends to overcome every death trap set before him. Proving to be a problem for Max’s plan, except in the process they discover that this could be the best film they have ever made.
Like any good script, the outcome of the film is really in the hands of those who bring the pages to life. The premise had the potential of being hilarious as a lesson in filmmaking in the 1970s. But, it feels like a trail that has been travelled down many times before. Then to have a cast that contains two Academy Award-winners, this still has the makings of a winner. Yet, the sum of its parts does not add up to a positive outcome.
To put your thumb onto the problem is difficult, because everything seems off about this film. It is hard to say, but DeNiro and Freeman were miscast or poorly coached. One of the greats of Hollywood overacts in every scene, while the man with the golden voice fails to deliver any humorous lines. Elements that cause all of the edgy moments to fall over on themselves and become quite embarrassing to watch. The only highlight in the film was Tommy Lee Jones' portrayal of Duke Montana. A perfect casting choice. He seems to be the only one who knows who he is on this set and adds brief glimmers of hope for audiences.
Even though the movie tries to capture the same magic of Get Shorty, Bowfinger and The Player, it never achieves the level of humour or insights into the industry to make it enjoyable. If you are looking for cinematic adventures in the film industry set in the 1970s, Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood or The Nice Guys would be better choices. Unfortunately, this film will not prove to be a comeback for anyone involved and may prove to be a step back instead.
REEL DIALOGUE: Can we be redeemed from our past?
Redemption: an act of redeeming or atoning for a fault or mistake, or the state of being redeemed. Deliverance from sin; salvation.
If there is a redeeming element of this film, it could be that it opens the door to redemption.. The heart of Duke’s story is the need to make up for past wrongs, his story deals with some of life's basic needs. Acceptance, forgiveness and redemption.
Travelling through life, most of us come to a point of seeking redemption for various things that we have done. Trying to find a means of rectifying the wrongs we have done to people, society or God. This is a concept that can be found at the heart of the Bible's message. Jesus' life and death provides a special type of redemption that is readily available to anyone who is willing to accept it.
This brings about two questions: Are you seeking redemption in your life and have you considered Jesus as the answer?
Verses on the topic of redemption: Psalm 111:9, John 3:16, Romans 3:24-26, Ephesians 1:7