Seven Days In Utopia is a faith-based film that has a top-notch cast and a muddled message. Robert Duvall, Lucas Black, Melissa Leo and Kathy Baker lend the film star power but the ambiguous pronouncements made by Duvall's character will have believers scratching their heads and non-believers running for the exits.
The film focuses on Luke Chisholm (Lucas Black), a professional golfer who has been having a streak of bad luck. It gets so bad that his father (Joseph Lyle Taylor), who is also his caddy, walks away in disgust. Luke jumps in his car and makes his getaway but ends up wrecking his car in a rural community called Utopia.
He is discovered by Johnny Crawford (Duvall), who appears to have no relationship to "The Rifleman" -- look it up! Johnny seems to know everybody in the town and is famous in some sort of sense. Later Luke discovers he was once a famous golfer himself. Johnny invites Luke to spend seven days in Utopia while his car gets fixed, and Johnny will help Luke and his game get fixed.
So begins a week of fun and games with Johnny. He has various methods of helping Luke with his game and a continuous dialogue of advice to make Luke a better person. All of this advice has a religious element to it but it is never clear exactly what Johnny is preaching.
Duvall seems awkward at best in his role as Johnny. This is a man who can play any role he is offered and make it a standout -- such as his performances in The Godfather, The Apostle and Lonesome Dove -- but somehow he cannot manage to make "Johnny Crawford" a living breathing human.
Black is at his best when the roles are quirky. He made his biggest impression when he played the kid opposite Billy Bob Thornton in Slingblade. As Luke, the role is just too normal for Black to feel comfortable. He spends most of his time smiling a silly grin or looking perplexed.
Leo and Baker are just there for the name attraction. Neither has anything to do and they make no impression at all. Deborah Ann Woll and Brian Geraghty fare better as two of the locals Luke meets. Taylor shows potential in the role of Luke's father, but it is never developed.
The movie is rated G.
Family films are needed at the box office but they must be good family films. Just throwing God into the mix is not enough to guarantee an audience. A film must have drama, humor, a solid message, an entertaining story -- something. Seven Days In Utopia had nothing to offer audiences other than the chance to see some good actors walking through boring roles. And when you add a completely unacceptable ending then you have some real trouble.
Seven Days In Utopia has a lot of potential on its face but it never develops any of it into a positive viewing experience. I am a big fan of Duvall and Black but the Get Low co-stars let me down this time.
I scored "Seven Days In Utopia" a week-long 5 out of 10 on www.jackiekcooper.com.