THE PLAYBOOK; written, directed and produced by Darran Scott; starring Mick Preston, Harry Borland, Kath Gordon; at the SCERA Center for the Arts, 745 S. State, Orem; 108 minutes; shows again on Saturday, Jan. 26 at 4:30 p.m.
OREM — It's a shame, really.
The movie that leads off the 12th Annual LDS Film Festival at the SCERA Center for the Arts is beautifully shot, pretty well acted — except for a couple of cameos by basketball star Luc Longley and one little kid — and supported throughout by gorgeous music composed by Stephen J. Anderson.
It just takes forever to get to its many points, and contains a lot of preachy content as a coach who's pretty demanding and unbending attempts to take his team to the championship — and share life's lessons after a life-changing event.
There are some editing and flow-of-action issues. The kid injured in the car accident still has his facial wounds several weeks later while the guy who drove the car is in prison and fully healed. The same woman referees almost every game the Warriors play although they're supposed to have moved from their hometown to the big leagues.
There's so much thrown into the story that the director/producer is obviously hard-pressed to get it all tied up by the end and it becomes kind of a mish-mash.
There are lots of lovely scenic moments, but they slow the action to a plod.
And the main character, coach Steven Thomas (Mick Preston), has some awkward lines that admonish and call the cast to repentance.
Spiritual lessons can certainly be taught in movies, but here the lessons are pushed in situations where it's unwelcome and uncomfortable; prayers in the team huddles and a "playbook" that is full of scriptural heroes likened to opposing teams.
The transitions for the characters are made without bringing the audience along.
It's hard to believe the good father will abandon the hopes and dreams of his wife (Kath Gordon) and other young children when he loses a teenager, then fairly easily be turned to forgive those responsible.
It's tough to buy that the dad repairs his relationship with his wife almost without effort after he treats her so terribly when times get tough, and then can welcome in the teenager (Harry Borland) who led his son astray.
It's also a little unrealistic when coach Thomas tosses his scriptures and his testimony. People certainly grieve after suffering a loss but this guy is supposedly a good father with grounded beliefs — at least, he espouses as much in the beginning.
There is a surprise or two. The final game doesn't finish up in a conventional manner. The good son is lost but not how you expect.
By the end of this movie, the viewer has whiplash trying to keep up.
Unfortunately, this is one of those movies that typify festival films. It's a brilliant effort, but may not make make the cut.
Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with 35 years experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com.