Friday, December 16, 2011
Charlie Sheen has been getting most of the ink in the Sheen family but older brother Emilio Estevez is trying to keep all his press about his work. His latest effort, "The Way" (opening December 16 at Reading Gaslamp Stadium 15), returns him to the director's chair.
Emilio Estevez made his directorial debut in 1986 with a kids on the lam flick called "Wisdom" and co-starring Demi Moore. He's also directed a comedy co-starring his brother Charlie ("Men at Work") and a Vietnam war vet drama starring his dad Martin Sheen ("The War at Home").
For "The Way," Estevez teams with his father again. This time Sheen is Tom, a well to do ophthalmologist who enjoys a comfortable routine. But his only son Daniel (Estevez) has a more restless spirit and wants to travel the world. The film begins with Tom receiving notice that his son has just died while trying to walk a pilgrimage known as The Way in Europe. Tom decides to fly out to France to identify and claim his son's body. But once there he unexpectedly gets caught up by his son's obsession and decides to walk "The Way" himself.
"The Way" is heartfelt and sincere but also boring and bland. This is a familiar journey about a father and a son coming to terms with each other. It's a film that speaks in pat cliches. In a flashback, Tom passes judgment on his son's choice to leave all responsibility behind to go off to Europe to travel. Tom cannot understand his son and Daniel cannot understand his father's complacency. When Tom tries to defend his choices by saying he's happy with the life he's chosen, Daniel retorts with the platitude, "you don't choose a life you live one." That pretty much sums up the film. It's as predictable as an afterschool special in delivering a message about how to live life and how to be open to other people's points of view.
The film does make a nice travelogue as Tom walks The Way and takes in the scenery of the countryside as well as small towns. It's not a badly made film but it does aim for very low hanging sentimental fruit. Everyone Tom meets along the way is struggling on a personal journey as well and each is wrapped in a cliche. There's Joost from Amsterdam who's wife won't sleep with him because he's fat, and since he's from Amsterdam he's loaded with drugs. Jack from Ireland is a writer who likes to drink and rail against the Catholic church (big surprise). And Sarah is woman coping with past abuse and having difficulty developing intimacy with others. Of course walking The Way sets everyone on a new path in life.
Sheen is convincing as Tom. He's a top notch actor and his son gets a sincere and not overly sentimental performance. But there are no fresh insights here, and nothing to challenge his acting skills. It's a solid performance in a very mediocre film.
As for Estevez, he's a competent but not inspired or imaginative director. He hits every expected mark with workman-like efficiency. He's done a lot of TV work (directing series episodes and TV movies) and it shows. This film would probably play better on TV where your expectations might be lower.
"The Way" (rated PG-13) is for the unadventuresome filmgoer who just wants a safe, unchallenging diversion with good actors.
Companion viewing: "I Never Sang For My Father," "Our Lady of the Assassins," "The Tree of Life"