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Thursday, Sept. 8, 2011 09:03 am

Duvall doesn’t lay up in predictable Utopia

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Sometime a single actor can make a predictable script seem fresh and such is the case where Robert Duvall and Seven Days in Utopia is concerned. This Christian sports parable casts the actor as a benevolent and wise mentor who spouts hoary life lessons to his pupil, a wayward golfer (Lucas Black), with such conviction I was convinced I’d be able to shoot six under in a PGA-sanctioned tournament while finding a sense of inner peace if I just followed his advice.

The duffer in question is Luke Chisholm who, after suffering a meltdown during a televised tournament, finds himself barreling blindly down a country road in a fit of pique. He ends up crashing through the fence of gentleman farmer Johnny Crawford (Duvall) who, far from being mad, ends up taking the kid in. With a car repair days in the offing Chisholm decides to stay in Utopia for a week as his new mentor promises to help fix his game.

Much of Crawford’s advice for Chisholm is from the Mr. Miyagi playbook as he has him learning balance by standing up in a canoe, painting nicely hit golf shots and taking him up in an airplane and turning off the engine so the kid can glide it down safely. Patience, balance and a degree of calm are the keys to a good golf game – as well as living a good life, which director Matt Russell hammers home with the subtlety of a Mike Tyson haymaker.

It’s not that the film is bad, it’s just bland, which for those looking for an extended episode of The Andy Griffith Show, isn’t such a bad thing. And then there’s Duvall, who knows he could pull his role off in his sleep but isn’t satisfied to do so, trying his level best to make something distinctive out of the stereotype he’s been handed. No one delivers a line like “How can a game have such an effect on a man’s soul?” with the kind of majesty that Duvall does. Watching him ace one scene after another makes what should have been a mulligan of a movie into a pleasant diversion.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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