Featuring if not one of the flat-out worst Photoshopped covers in recent memory then at least one of the outright least appealing, especially given its two leads, Justin Timberlake and Jeff Bridges, The Open Road hits DVD this week, and brings with it a set of wanly fulfilled expectations about the dynamics and stagings of a familial reconciliation travelogue.
Already mired in a slump, joyless minor league baseball player Carlton Garrett (Timberlake) receives more tough news when he learns of a turn for the worse with his ill mother, Katherine (Mary Steenburgen). Trying to fulfill her precondition for signing off on a risky surgery, Carlton hits the road to track down his estranged father, legendary pro player Kyle Garrett (Bridges), at an autograph signing. Knowing his charming yet painfully immature dad’s likelihood to disappoint, Carlton enlists his ex-girlfriend Lucy (Shooter‘s Kate Mara, above left) for emotional support. Once reunited, Carlton struggles to deal with a series of misadventures caused by his father’s antics, including missed flights and car trouble in their rented red Hummer. Years of miscommunication, frustration and awkward attempts at bonding come to a head as the mismatched trio make their way from Ohio back home to Houston to reunite the family.
Button-cute and at home with quiet moments, Mara is a starlet on the rise, and writer-director Michael Meredith otherwise wrangles a fine supporting cast — including Harry Dean Stanton, Lyle Lovett and Ted Danson — for his movie. Bridges, however, overdoes the garbling coot routine by about half, and Timberlake never fully locates a realistic tone of pinched disappointment in the way his character’s relationship with his father has turned out. When their at-odds nature physically manifests itself in what is supposed to be a comedic bathroom brawl, it just feels kind of lame, honestly. All the commitment issue parallelism and other subtext plays on top and obvious, and the dialogue isn’t nearly as whipsmart as Meredith imagines it.
Housed in a regular plastic Amaray case in turn stored in a cardboard slipcover (both with the aforementioned terrible Photoshopped cover), The Open Road‘s DVD allows for viewers to choose either a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen or 1.33:1 full frame viewing presentation, to complement the disc’s Dolby 5.1 surround sound audio track. Optional subtitles are also available in English and Spanish. Joining writer-director Meredith on a feature-length audio commentary track is Bridges, and while the two share a warm rapport, there are big gaps in the chat that make for an uneven listen. A few amusing anecdotes — Meredith and his skeleton crew almost getting arrested shooting B-roll, or Bridges spinning a chat about rehearsal back into a reminisce about working with Sidney Lumet — enliven things a bit, but this isn’t a top-shelf chat by any means. There’s also a seven-minute behind-the-scenes featurette — shot in a nostalgic, home video-style, and seeded with EPK-type interviews — as well as the movie’s theatrical
trailer. To purchase the DVD via Amazon, click here. C (Movie) C- (Disc)