With Keanu Reeves committing endless mayhem in "John Wick", things going horribly wrong in "Ouija" and Bill Murray showing his utmost lovability in "St. Vincent" it has been easy for a family friendly film titled "23 Blast" to get overlooked at your local cinema this weekend. It is only playing on around six hundred screens so it might not even be available in your area. But if it is, go see it. It is worth your time and effort.
The movie is based on the true story of Travis Freeman (Mark Hapka), a young man who loses his eyesight in his junior year of high school. Prior to that time he had been a rising football star. Amazingly his coach is able to convince him to come back to the team in his senior year. You have to see the movie to see how this works. Suffice it to say, seeing his valiant effort and the support he receives from his family and friends makes for an emotional and enjoyable film.
One aspect concerning the film that caught my attention is the name of Dylan Baker appearing as the director. Now Baker has been an actor in many movies and in a lot of them he has had some quirky roles. You might have also seen him on "The Good Wife" as a man who gets away with murder and relishes it.
As the director of this film he has to find the right way to present this too good to be true story without making the audience gag on the sweetness. He achieves that balance perfectly. This is no doubt aided by sincere performances by Hapka, Stephen Lang as the high school coach, Bram Hoover as Travis's best friend, and Baker and Kim Zimmer as Travis' parents.
The only amateurish performance in the movie is that of the actor playing Travis' local preacher. However before the movie ends you well find out the reason for that. It comes as a big surprise. Still it adds to the overall effect of the story.
The high caliber of the acting, the strong direction by Baker, the way the story is told in dramatic linear fashion, all add up to an impressive movie experience. This is not something you would expect of a small budget movie of this type but every aspect of the movie rings true.
The film is rated PG-13 for football violence and teen drinking.
If you want to see a movie that will lift your spirits this is the one to chase down. It has humor, heart and drama presented against a football background.
I scored "23 Blast" a hiked 7 out of 10.
Jackie K. Cooper -- www.jackiekcooper.com