|Written by Paul Lingas|
|Tuesday, 07 February 2006|
Mae is of course dying of some unknown and unrecognizable disease and wants Daltry to get to know his daughter before she dies. June is, of course, a musical prodigy who constantly frets about her impending audition for Julliard, though it is unclear what instrument she plays, besides her annoyingly clichéd harmonica. Calhoun Industries’ special blend of grass has begun to sprout odd, cactus-like formations and the company is hit hard financially, so Daltry brings in a mysterious Australian sod expert named Frankie (Kick Gurry) to help him out. The rest of the film consists of June walking around the deserted and socio-economically homogeneous town in a seemingly aimless way, running into Frankie, on whom she develops a crush, the dimwitted Doyle (David Koechner) whom she helps learn to read and the widowed Flora (Juliette Lewis), all the while staying with Daltry, who goofily tries to interact with her. In the end, almost nothing happens, and that nothing happens very slowly.
This movie brings new meaning to the phrase “slag heap,” which is where Miramax must have found it. It has clichéd, practically unspeakable dialogue that the actors recite with no feeling whatsoever. It’s one of those films where the writer/director, Katrina Holden Bronson, thinks too simply about story; she thinks that less is more, but end up with less. It also seems like a string of slightly good ideas executed far too simplistically. One example is the “bonding” scene between Daltry and June, where he inwardly laments the lost years without his daughter, who at this point doesn’t know he’s her father. June launches into a nonsensical monologue that seeks to cleverly compare rap with country music, but succeeds only in baffling both the viewer, and from the looks of it, Knoxville himself. Daltry and June have a breakthrough when they realize she is a southpaw like him and that she has long fingers like him (my gosh, they must be related!). The direction is pedestrian at times, confused at others and the pacing maddeningly slow. It’s difficult to understand the motivations of the characters, all of whom seem to be cut out of some sort of how-to book on Southern screenwriting. To say that the film is quirky only diminishes how truly awful it is. I cannot figure out if it’s supposed to be funny or not. The only thing I do know is that it’s sad. It’s difficult to understand what capable actors like Lewis, Banks and Koechner were thinking when they agreed to do the film, and Knoxville would have been better off throwing himself into a lamppost.
Though there appear to be a fair number of bonus features on this DVD, they are, like the film itself, an illusion of ability. The “Making Of” portion is an exercise in self-congratulatory nonsense, as is “The B Team,” which consists of a few behind-the-scenes interviews and mostly inside jokes. Perhaps the one thing that should really have not been included is the audio commentary that features writer/director Bronson, producer Renfrew and, for some unfathomable reason, executive producer Tarantino. Why Tarantino attached himself to this film is a big question, and more so is his motivation for doing commentary. Neither Bronson nor producer Danielle Renfrew seem particularly adept at providing interesting commentary and Bronson seems almost entirely out of her element as a filmmaker. Tarantino asks question after question, which are lamely answered by producer and director. Frankly, the whole thing sounds like a recording of a beginners’ film class.
The deleted scenes are hilarious in the bad way because they are so incredibly goofy. Thank goodness they were cut out. Even the blooper reel is horrible. It’s boring and just shows people screwing up their takes, which is different from, say, Jim Carrey going goofy in the middle of a take. Every film has takes when the boom gets in the shot, but this is so common that don’t show it in blooper reels …until now.
Someday maybe someone will explain to me why every movie insists on having a 5.1 channel mix but doesn’t bother to have mixers who know how to do it properly. In this case, there is no need to have that many channels, since the film has about 500 total words of dialogue and contains mostly backgrounds and ambiences. The only sound of real note is the music track, which is always mixed too high and consists of a plethora of classic and modern Southern-tinted songs.
Ultimately, “Daltry Calhoun,” though billed as Johnny Knoxville’s breakout dramatic role, instead is an amateur film in both effort and execution for all involved. The DVD itself, though it has plentiful the extra features and a crisp transfer, does little to change the feeling that “Daltry Calhoun” will slide quickly into the darkness of history – at least, we can only hope. If you can make it through this film without falling asleep or having a tantrum, you have my respect.