The unspoken grief of a small, patriotic rural town that refuses to talk about its combat dead is a heavy burden to slap on a formulaic city-kid-turns-rural-dance-team-into-champs dramedy.
But that’s what the high-minded Bravetown attempts. An R-rated drama about drugs and remorse and death and kids questioning a town that’s “good for nothing but turning out future soldiers,” it’s somewhat undercut by the whole “Step Up/Footloose/Glee” dance showcase that got it financed.
Lucas Till is Josh, a rising, drug-abusing DJ whose one drug-bust-too-many gets him shipped off by his onetime addict mom (Maria Bello) to live with the father he never knew.
Dad is played by Tom Everett Scott, with barely a line and not one decent scene to play. That’s because Dad is a combat vet, and in Paragon, guys don’t talk about the war they fought in and families don’t talk about the sons, brothers and friends they’ve lost.
Josh Duhamel is well-cast as the psychotherapist the troubled-teen Josh is forced to visit. He’s content to watch soccer matches and eat pizza during their sessions, until the kid starts to reach out, and the therapist is obliged to try and help. Not that the kid is having it.
“You learn that at shrink community college?”
The one thing the hip mixmaster might do to fit in is hip up the disastrous dance team, whose routines are as dated as their Avrile Lavigne-laced dance track.
Mary (Kherington Payne, very good) is their control-freak captain. Even she recognizes the city boy with his mad mixes would be just the ticket to turn around their fortunes.
Mary takes Josh to a tree adorned with the medals of the town’s fallen, a romantic concept (lit by kerosene lanterns) straight out of Nicholas Sparks. She suffered a loss, too. Her medicated, manic mother (Laura Dern, always sterling) is the only townsperson to talk about the dead. And she’s in depressed denial herself.
Till, one of the new X-Men, isn’t bad, although his character seems cut and pasted from assorted dance, music and troubled teen pictures. And there’s good support surrounding him.
But whatever its intent, Bravetown stumbles through a steady supply of contrivances designed to make the budget work and the storylines overlap. Relationships are abrupt, absurd legal expediencies push Josh into his dad’s town’s problems, Duhamel’s shrink is a vet with a secret, all the dance team’s contests are somehow staged on their home gym and the shattered town will be made whole at the foot of that tree of medals.
The result is an off-tone R-rated melodrama more suited to the unsophisticated PG-13 sentiments of a-kids-gotta-dance picture, or a romance novel, Nicholas Sparks without a beach.
Exclusive: AMC Mesquite
Director: Daniel Duran
Cast: Lucas Till, Josh Duhamel, Kherington Payne, Maria Bello, Laura Dern, Jae Head, Tom Everett Scott
Rated: R (some strong language, drug use, brief sexuality)
Running time: 113 min.