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The Open Road (2009)

Anchor Bay Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 11/17/2009

All Ratings out of
Video: 1/2
Audio: 1/2
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 11/30/2009


Whether or not we like to admit it to ourselves, we like or don't like certain performers. Even if we can't put our finger on it, there's just something about this person who either draws you in or repels you. But, have you ever liked someone in one medium and disliked them in another. For years, I paid no attention to Justin Timberlake. Pop music is definitely not my thing, and I found his music in N'sync and his solo work cringeworthy. (Males should want to rock, not sing like him.) But, then I saw him on Saturday Night Live and was laughing despite myself. This guy is actually funny! (I also enjoy his Sony commercials with Peyton Manning.) So, when The Open Road arrived, I was interested to see what Timberlake could do in a feature film.

Timberlake stars in The Open Road as Carlton Garrett, a minor-league baseball player who lives in Corpus Christi, Texas. He's been in a slump lately and his manager (Ted Danson in a brief cameo) isn't happy with him. Carlton rushes to the hospital when he receives a call that his mother, Katherine (Mary Steenburgen), is sick. Katherine needs surgery, but she refuses to let the operation take place, until she can she her estranged husband, Carlton's father, Kyle Garrett (Jeff Bridges). Carlton turns to his ex-girlfriend, Lucy (Kate Mara), for support and she agrees to go with him to get his father. Kyle is an former Major League player, who goes by the nickname "Lone Star", and he's in Ohio signing autographs. Carlton confronts Kyle, who agrees to go to Texas. However, at the airport, Kyle can't find his ID, so they are forced to rent a car and drive. Along the way, old feelings between Carlton and Kyle and Carlton and Lucy come to the surface, and they all learn that it's not always good to keep your feelings inside.

Carolina Panthers head coach John Fox is famous for two things; failing to adjust his game plan at halftime and never being very forthcoming with the media. He doesn't shy away from press conferences, but his answers are always vague. One of his most famous responses to a direct question was, "It is what it is." This phrase perfectly describes The Open Road. This is a road movie about relationships -- it is what it is.

Read the above synopsis again and you will know everything that you need to about The Open Road. We meet Carlton, watch he and Lucy go get Kyle, and then watch the three of them travel cross-country. And that's it. The remainder of the film is solely concerned with Carlton begin emotionally honest with two of the most important people in his life. Along the way, Carlton begins to examnie not only his feelings about those around him, but his feelings towards his own life and career as well. There are no plot twists or great revelations here. This is the epitome of the "slice of life" film.

Reading all of this, you may think that The Open Road sounds boring, and, if so, you've hit the nail on the head. The story is far too straightforward to be engrossing and the lack of any real surprises in the plot does nothing to draw the viewer in. I think that Writer/Director Michael Meredith wanted to convey a sense of tension or suspense concerning whether or not Kyle would actually go with Carlton, but this never comes to fruition. Even the big emotional confrontation between father and son is drab.

The bottom line is that The Open Road plays like a made-for-TV movie which just happens to be filled with familiar faces. The acting here is good all-around, but these actors can't overcome the bland material. Of course, the real injustice is that The Open Road is first and foremost a drama, so Justin Timberlake isn't given much of an opportunity to be funny. Maybe next time.

The Open Road is in a slump on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing only mild grain at time and no defects from the source material. The colors look very good and the image is never too dark or too bright. Much of the film takes place during the day and the landscape shots during the trip look very good and show a nice amount of depth. However, I did notice some haloes around the actors, some of which caused a slight shimmering on the image. The Disc offers a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are good and nicely detailed. They are subtle, such as a car moving from side-to-side, but effective. The surround sound effects are good as well, but they are a bit too subtle at times. Still, crowd and street noises work well here. The subwoofer effects are kept to a minimum.

The Open Road Blu-ray Disc contains three extra features. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Writer/Director Michael Meredith and Jeff Bridges. This is a pretty good commentary, as the two reminisce about the making of the film. They talk about the various locations and the other actors. While there are some silent patches, they share some good information about the movie and we hear what a labor of love it was. "Behind the Scenes of The Open Road" (7 minutes) contains comments from the cast who discuss the story and reveal what drew them to the project. There are also interviews with the filmmakers who talk about the production. There is a smattering of on-set footage here. The final extra is the THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long