Televised movies tend more towards the silly side. That is just a fact. This one is no different but where others usually hold up with by their cast or script, this one is messier than even the normal.
Chicago is where Holly Whitman (LeAnn Rimes) ran away following her high school graduation. It wasn’t that she didn’t love her family so much as she needed to get away from Alabama where her widowed father couldn’t handle the pressures of two children – instead Holly kept things going. What she ran from was her stifling small hometown. On the brink of one of the biggest cases in her young career as a lawyer, Holly gets a call from her brother that their father has had a heart attack. Not taking the time to do anything but commandeer her boyfriend’s sports car, Holly drives ten plus hours down to the small fishing town only to find that her father has checked himself out of the hospital. Stubborn to a fault and a man who refuses to remember names, Wade Whitman (Burt Reynolds) is not about to let his daughter stick around to care for and fuss over him – he wants her to go back to her successful life in Chicago so that he can get back to his. Despite his annoying hints and bully tactics, Holly is staying put – and the fact that she reconnects with old friends, and a handsome drifter (Shawn Roberts) may change her mind about her past altogether.
Television station CMT (home to country music and some of its finest) used this as a kind of tryout to see how feature films would rate. I don’t know how its ratings were but having seen it, I can say, at times it is a painfully low-budget, average production and others, it is just too syrupy cute to bash. I giggled my way through the majority of the film because so much of the dialogue is so sappy or inept, it’s hard not to pick out – it is just that obvious. Having said that, the romance is cute albeit unrealistic (seriously - you are going to change your whole life in part to see where a 48 hours old new relationship may go?) while the acting is far from flawless.
Though she is not an actress by trade (however, we’ll put that fact on the back burner for now), Rimes is not well suited to the role in this movie. There is something really vexing about her characteristics and yet, we like Holly. She is sassy and fun while we wonder what on earth she could have seen in her pussy-footed boyfriend who cares more about his car than his girlfriend of two years. Robert’s Jay is also a fun albeit clichéd character while going strictly by looks, he is the better looking half in this leading couple, and then there is veteran Reynolds; his gruff, estranged stereotyped father figure is right on. All of his personality quirks are quite comedic. Playing into the stereotype of small town USA (in particular, the Southern sections as is the setting here), some of the characters are a bit dim-witted which is such an over-used, boring cliché. Here, it is Holly’s loser, out-of-work brother who bares the brunt of the laughs in this one. Thrown out of his house by his wife, in the end, his one “good act” gets him back in but in the interim, it is… well, annoying.
Fortunately where everything else tends more towards unrealistic events or conversations, the story does have a good grip on the reality of fathers and daughters, and a nice message results. The scene between Holly and her father on the lake is sweet (and LeAnn actually does a nice job with the scene). Additionally, the setting is pretty and the script does have heart (even if it has been re-tooled time and again!), I only wish it had a stronger, more likable leading lady. Moments when she is with her friend are cute as is the “slow dance” with Jay but other than that there are too many awkward scenes to be truly great. One such scene is a brief line-dancing sequence that was just… awfully stiff. (Let’s go for Footloose any day over this!) In the same vein as many Hallmark productions, what this one does lack in production, it makes up for (or desperately tries to) with its intentions being in the right place. There just isn’t that usual pizzazz that most television films bring to our screen for this one to be competitive. Still, for a mindless romantic comedy, you could do worse.
(Rated TVPG: There are some crude sexual references. After getting drunk, Jay finds four women in the hot tub [they are supposedly naked to which some jokes are cracked about Jay peeping but being a gentleman]. Mention is made to a “cute a**” and losing one’s virginity. Holly comes onto Jay after a night of drinking and even hints at staying with him [she doesn’t] – elsewhere other characters drink themselves into a stupor. There are a few instances of minor profanity.)