In addition, Scott isn’t remotely likeable. Nothing in the script or Presley’s performance makes Scott a sympathetic character. He’s such a mopey grump (and general narcissist) that it’s hard to feel sorry for his “plight,” such as it is. Thankfully veteran actors like Kurt Russell (Miracle) and Christine Lahti (Law & Order:SVU) substantially elevate every scene they’re in. The only miracle here is how those two (and Melanie Lynskey [Win Win], as Scott’s wife) can bring effortless realism and conviction to a screenplay that is defined by such corny calculation.

Most importantly, James Stewart’s classic literally begins in the context of Supernatural Intervention whereas Brian Presley’s does not; his avoids the Almighty altogether. Instead, Scott simply experiences some benign cosmic magic trick. Which is odd, considering how the faith-based marketing plan touts the film’s Christian values, sells a small group discussion guide, and even pushes Presley’s own personal testimony. 

You get none of that Christian message here; not a mention of God, a prayer to him—not even so much as a single desperate cry to the heavens—or any hint that it was all the merciful hand of Providence at play. Scott comes to a place of gratitude and peace but all he has to thank is his lucky stars (and some weak fumes).

In and of itself, that’s a perfectly fair position for a movie to take. But when you market that movie to a specific audience’s expectations and desires—and then avoid those expectations like the plague—that audience is being financially exploited and played for evangelical patsies.

What we’re left with is a lead actor/producer who seems to have made a film that’s his own do-over in which he can relive his glory days (Presley QB’d Oklahoma’s Jenks Trojans to a State Title back in the ‘90s). If the marketing’s sincere, and the filmmakers genuinely do want the movie to point people to God, they’ve given viewers absolutely nothing to take hold of—not even a vague tea leaf. 

Which brings me back to the common knock against seeker-sensitive churches, because it applies here: Touchback is either embarrassed by or afraid of revealing the very source of its beliefs, and in the process isn’t wooing the seekers it seeks while giving its base nothing more than warmed-over humanism.

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol Content: Adults get drunk, need to be driven home.
  • Language/Profanity: A few D-words, several H-words, a couple of A-words, the full use of the phrase P.O.’d.
  • Sexual Content/Nudity: Skinny dipping; no visual nudity, bodies are either severely out of focus or under water, but “teen” men and women skinny dip together for an extended period of time. A girlfriend suggestively stradles her boyfriend in a truck. A girl invites a guy into her house; the insinuation is for sex. A few kisses by girlfriend/boyfriend, as well as a husband/wife.
  • Violence: A severely broken leg; no bone exposed, but the leg is so bent out of shape it’s wince-inducing, even disturbing. General football violence.