Director: Dylan Baker
Cast: Mark Hapka, Bram Hoover, Stephen Lang, Max Adler, Alexa Vega, Dylan Baker, Kim Zimmer, Becky Ann Baker, Timothy Busfield
MPAA Rating: (for some teen drinking)
Running Time: 1:38
Release Date: 10/24/14
Review by Mark Dujsik | October 23, 2014
23 Blast is the kind of movie in which a character turns on a light bulb to coincide with him getting an idea. It's the kind of movie that indicates a football player has gone blind through a dream in which the big lights on a football field go dark. It's also the kind of movie in which that football player asks, "What do you mean 'blind'?" and someone responds, "You've lost your eyesight." When things are at their bleakest in the story, this is the kind of movie that has the real-life person give a sermon/pep talk to his fictional counterpart. The point is that it's not a subtle movie.
Worse, though, it's a very serious movie that believes its story of a Person Overcoming a Seemingly Impossible Obstacle is a Very Important one. It may be for those involved in the real-world basis for the story (who, of course, turn up cheering and clapping in the stands of a football field during the movie's coda, because, again, it's that kind of movie), but that's a pretty narrow audience that is already a bit biased in the movie's favor. A story is only as good as its telling, and under the direction of Dylan Baker (the great character actor's far-from-great directorial debut) and through the screenplay by the mother-son team of Toni and Bram Hoover, the telling of this story is just flat-out inept. We start to wonder if there's really anything even slightly worthwhile—let alone Very Important—about it.
On the surface, there surely is. Travis Freeman (Mark Hapka) is a star receiver on his high school football team. He has been playing football since he was a child, and certainly he has a chance to do something great with his talents.
Would it come as a surprise, then, to learn that some text at the end of the movie informs us that Travis had a big dream in high school that came true? Based on the aforementioned information about Travis, it probably wouldn't, but it might come as a surprise to learn that his dream since high school was to become a minister. That should be a surprise, since at no point in the movie, which is primarily set during Travis' high school years, does he or any other character mention this dream. That's also the kind of movie this is.
Anyway, Travis gets an infection that becomes "too much infection" (an actual phrase used by a doctor here), and as a result, he goes blind. Naturally, he's devastated and, after being discharged from the hospital, resigns himself to his bedroom to avoid contact with anyone except for his father (Baker) and mother (Kim Zimmer). He even avoids Jerry (Bram Hoover), his best friend and the team's troubled quarterback, and Ashley (Alexa Vega), who played football with the boys as a child and now has a crush on Travis.
Travis' physical therapist Patty (Becky Ann Baker) convinces the kid to stop sulking, and we're treated to the first of the movie's many montages as Travis transforms from stumbling and groping about (Hapka oversells the blindness to an almost comical effect) to being able to navigate the halls of school without any help. Meanwhile, the football team is losing because of a lack of leadership, or so believes Coach Farris (Stephen Lang). After Travis offers some helpful advice about swapping two players' positions, the coach gets a bright idea (emphasized by him turning on a lamp): Get Travis back on the team.
Now, of course, one would think that the coach would consider implementing Travis' knowledge about the workings of the team and his ability to rally his teammates in a way that suits the kid's disability, like, say, in a coaching or consulting position. Remember, though, what kind of movie this is. Instead, good, old coach throws Travis back into the lineup, and we're treated to yet another montage as Travis gets better at snapping the football to the quarterback, charging at a tackling dummy, and avoiding falling down in general.
We know we're supposed to be inspired, but there's a sneaking doubt that kind of agrees with the movie's "villains," the director of the athletic department (Timothy Busfield), who worries about lawsuits, and the father of another player, both of whom are upset that the stunt will undermine the player's own chances of getting a scholarship. Of course, all of these characters are know-nothing jerks, which is the only way that the movie can try to coerce us into disagreeing with common sense. 23 Blast is mainly that kind of movie.
Copyright © 2014 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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