Seven Days in Utopia

  • Review Date: September 2, 2011
  • Rated: G
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2011
  • Running Time: 98 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Great actors and good messages, but very predictable plot.
  • Review Date: September 2, 2011
  • Rated: G
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2011
  • Running Time: 98 minutes

Age(i)

2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Educational value

Kids will learn about the mechanics and skills involved in playing golf, but this movie is more inspirational than educational.

Positive messages

Many positive messages about unconditional love, how a father should love his son whether he wins or loses, and the idea that we need to bury the lies that keep us down. The people of Utopia teach Luke that faith, friendship, and family are all more important than winning. He learns to think of the big picture and how he'd like to live his life, rather than just pursue the top spot on the leaderboard.

Positive role models

Johnny is the ultimate role model. He's kind, discerning, selfless, and forgiving, as well as instructive and disciplining -- an allegorical stand-in for unconditional fatherly love. Luke's story is one of redemption and learning that you can't allow anything -- even a passion like sports -- to deceive you into thinking that your self-worth is tied to how well you do on the green, on the court, in the classroom, etc.

Violence & scariness

Luke snaps a golf club in two out of anger and frustration. He also gets into a brief tussle with two rivals, but it's just pushing and shoving; no punches are thrown. Four guys play Cowboy Poker, in which they all try to stay attached to their chairs while a bull runs around them in a rodeo arena.

Sexy stuff

Luke and Sarah are clearly interested in each other, but the relationship is so chaste that she won't even accept a kiss from him.

Language

Mild insults like "hick" and "have you choked on anything today?" are exchanged between Luke and Jake. One use of "hell."

Consumerism

Golf equipment/accessories company Callaway is omnipresent: the name/logo appears on clubs, caps, shirts, and golf tournament signs. At one point, Luke's father gives him a new club and mentions it's "Callaway's latest." The Golf Channel is also heavily featured, including golf commentators/analysts Kelly Tilghman and Brandel Chamblee.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

One character says he's going to use money for "drinks," but no one is shown drinking.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this Christian-themed golf drama (which is based on the inspirational book Golf's Sacred Journey: Seven Days at the Links of Utopia by David Cook) has very little iffy content. There's zero language or sexuality other than chaste flirting between two young adults, and the violence doesn't go beyond some pushing and shoving and a scene of "Cowboy Poker" (trying to stay in your chair as a bull runs around you in a rodeo arena). There are some very obvious product placements by Callaway and the Golf Channel, but it's a golf movie, so it's to be expected. Although the movie's messages are overtly Christian (a scripture starts off the movie, everyone goes to church and says grace, and a Bible signifies the protagonist's conversion), non-Christian viewers could also see it as a story of redemption and believing in yourself.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

On the cusp of qualifying for his first pro golf tournament, Luke Chisolm (Lucas Black) spectacularly flips out on the 18th hole during a televised competition. After the embarrassing flop, Luke drives around aimlessly and takes a spontaneous right turn toward Utopia, Tex., a tiny town of fewer than 400 folks. After crashing his car to avoid hitting a cow, Luke is rescued by elderly rancher Johnny Crawford (Robert Duvall), who offers him a place to stay until his car is fixed. When the Golf Channel airs footage of Luke's disastrous game, Johnny, a former PGA player himself, strikes a deal with Luke: Stay in Utopia for seven days, and he'll have his game back. Luke agrees, and the two embark on a week of eccentric lessons in the spiritual and physical aspects of golfing.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

There's nothing wrong with an inspiring sports movie. Some of the best in the genre -- Hoosiers, Remember the Titans, Miracle -- are classics that families will be watching together for generations. But there's a line between inspiring and evangelizing, between moving and cheesy, and this golf drama crosses completely over into eye-rolling territory. It's not the actors -- the cast boasts two Academy Award winners (Duvall and Melissa Leo), plus Black, Hurt Locker vet Brian Geraghty, True Blood vamp Deborah Ann Woll, and Emmy winner Kathy Baker. It's the movie's Cars-meets-Karate Kid-via-Sunday School plot that drags it down. Not to mention that golf isn't the most exciting sport to begin with, so there's a generally soporific tone to the entire endeavor.

 

On the bright side, the cinematography is lovely (lush greens and blues), Black never looks awkward swinging a golf club, and the soundtrack features a memorable selection of contemporary Christian tunes. Duvall's take on a Mr. Miyagi-ish mentor is quite amusing, although possibly unintentionally so -- as in the scene when Johnny ludicrously allows Luke to take the controls of a small airplane as it begins to plummet through the air. Painting and fly-fishing are  one thing, but flying a plane? No. Although the movie's general message that winning is never more important than what's in your heart is a wonderful lesson for all budding athletes, it's delivered in such a heavy-handed way that it misses the mark.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the story's message that family, friendship, and faith are more important than any game or competition. Is this a lesson that teen athletes should take to heart? Are kids pressured to be exceptional athletes by their parents?

  • How does Luke's relationship with Johnny mirror other "hero-guide" friendships in movie history?

  • Why are sports movies so popular? How does this one compare to other inspiring sports tales?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:September 2, 2011
DVD release date:November 29, 2011
Cast:Lucas Black, Melissa Leo, Robert Duvall
Director:Matt Russell
Studio:Utopia Films
Genre:Drama
Topics:Sports and martial arts
Run time:98 minutes
MPAA rating:G

This review of Seven Days in Utopia was written by

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  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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What parents and kids say

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Parent Written byjgirl001 January 15, 2012
AGE
18
QUALITY
 

Somewhat disappointed.

I was disappointed in the cleavage display of two women in the movie. Otherwise the movie was okay.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Kid, 9 years old September 15, 2011
AGE
10
QUALITY
 

Winning Isn't Everything

Children watching this movie should have some knowledge of golf and know what a caddie is. The movie begins with a golf tournament where the "star", a young adult golfer, is playing in a tournament with his father as his caddie. The father has been consistently coaching and driving his son to be a Tour Champiion. On the last hole of the tournament in which he is the leader -- he has a bad shot, -- then another -- then another -- and looses his temper, his game and the tournament. The young man drives off in anger and disappointment ... to Utopia... where he is mentored by Robert Duvall (Johnny) using a very different coaching style and a "born-again" experience. Although this is clearly a Christian-themed movie, non Christians will find non-religious lessons to talk about with their family, Probably not a good movie for parents who are driving their children to be the very best -- the winner -- at a sport -- or anything. The lesson of the movie is "winning isn't everything." You don't have to be a great star to be a good person.

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