Is there something in your life you would go back and change if you could? If you had the chance to have a “do over,” like when you played as a kid, would you take it? The new film “Touchback” looks into this question. Take one part of “It’s a Wonderful Life” and one part “Friday Night Lights,” and you have the basic idea behind this film.
Our “George Bailey” is Scott Murphy (Brian Presley), who lives in Coldwater, Ohio, and has everything ahead of him. He was voted Mr. Football in 1991 for the state of Ohio. His girlfriend is a cheerleader and he has a scholarship to play quarterback at Ohio State. On the final play of the state championship game, Murphy runs for an incredible touchdown but is seriously injured as he is hit crossing the goal line.
Murphy’s life changes from this moment on. Twenty years later, Murphy is a down-on-his-luck farmer growing soybeans in corn country. He didn’t go to college or play pro football, like one of his teammates. In fact, his injury is still with him and he must wear a brace. He married one of the volunteer nurses in the hospital where he was recovering and not the cheerleader. He is trying to make ends meet, but nothing seems to work. The family’s livelihood depends on the soybean crop.
The town is paying tribute to the state championship team Murphy was on, but he must harvest the soybeans before they go bad in his field. He rents a harvester for the soybeans, but as he is harvesting, the machine breaks and he is worried everything is lost. He drives to a secluded spot and decides he could save his family by giving them the benefit of his life insurance.
Murphy plugs up the tailpipe of his truck and starts the engine. He blacks out and then comes to back in 1991, one week before the state championship game. He realizes he has a chance to change what happened and make his life better than it was.
There are some good moments in this film, mostly from Christine Lahti playing Murphy’s mom, Thelma, and Kurt Russell, who plays Coach Hand. The other great performance comes from Melanie Lynskey, who plays Macy. In the present day, she is married to Murphy, but in the past she is a band geek who he still thinks is his wife. Unfortunately though, that sums up all the good in this film.
The film starts off on a bad note when, at the state final football game, you see Murphy for the first time and he has a full face of 5 o’clock shadow. Brian Presley was too old for this character. All the actors, except for Lynskey, looked too old for their characters in high school. Then there are the sports clichÉs that keep popping up. Plus in the second go-round of the state championship game, everything is a setup for the final play, and the climax of that scene is really a letdown.
The reason for the PG-13 rating on this film is the violence. Murphy’s injury is a Joe Theismann kind of thing. You see his leg going the wrong way after the tackle. You’ll also find your typical hard football hits. There is a scene of skinny-dipping, but nothing is actually seen, although the nudity is discussed. There is not much foul language in this film.
"Touchback" has a good heart but in no way lives up to any other my-life-in-retrospect film. I’m sure the filmmakers meant well, but they didn’t deliver that well with what is on the screen. You’ll probably enjoy parts of "Touchback," but not all of it.
Shawn O'Neill is the Family Man Movie Reviewer on BYU Radio. His reviews can be heard on BYURadio.org and on SiriusXM Channel 143.