Greetings again from the darkness. It’s a coming of age film. Nope, it’s small town Americana film. Wait … it’s a high school dance film. Hold on, it’s an anti-war film. Sorry about that, it’s a film about families struggling with grief. Not that a film has to be any one type – the best rarely are – but writer Oscar Orlando Torres and first time director Daniel Duron are all over the place with this one.
Josh (Lucas Til, Havoc from the X-Men films) is a troubled young man with dazzling DJ skills beloved in the NYC club scene. An unfortunate turn leads to his mother (Maria Bello) and a Judge banishing him to live with his long lost father (Tom Everett Scott) in a small, idyllic place that could be AnyTown USA … or more appropriately, NoPlace USA. Josh is required to go to regular counseling for one year, and of course his therapist (Josh Duhamel) is as unstable as most any patient (as noted by his passion for soccer).
As with any new high school student, Josh is quickly befriended by Tony the nerdy little brother of the beautiful dance team captain Mary (Kherington Payne, Fame 2009). Tony is played by Jae Head, who you will remember as the sharp-but-still-goofy little brother in The Blind Side. It’s pretty obvious where this is headed when we first see the lame dance routines. In the blink of an eye, Josh’s music has elevated the dance team to elite status while he also stumbles into a romantic situation with Mary.
We soon learn that this town is hiding something. No, it’s not like The Stepford Wives, but in case we can’t figure it out on our own, Mary illuminates the War Memorial Tree – filled with military medals awarded to those the town has lost to war. See, the whole town has been touched war casualties, but no one will deal. Laura Dern plays mom to Tony and Mary, but she is so disoriented by grief, that she often thinks her oldest son is still returning home someday.
With elements of Footloose and Step Up, the story is continually brought crashing back around us with clips from Platoon – a film Josh so loves that it plays a central role in the film’s climax and redemption for all involved. The best parts of the film revolve around grief and pain, but those elements are constantly chopped up with the abbreviated dance contests. Some script doctoring would have helped rescue a film that seems to have too much to say, yet underserves a solid cast (though Til and Payne are too old to play high schoolers).