Seven Days in Utopia
What parents need to know
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.
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?
The acting is so good here, it's a shame the message misses its mark. 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. 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, but the delivery is too heavy-handed.
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?