The plot unfortunately leaves much to be desired.  It’s an interesting story, but McKinney and Olsen wrap it around Richard’s love affair with Christine, which can’t sustain the weight.  Because Richard’s success comes fairly early in the film, the climax is about them, instead—and neither the relationship nor the characters have the substance to sustain that kind of momentum.  As a result, everything loses steam about 60 minutes into the film.

Sawalich is also a bit heavy-handed with his point.  Everyone stares at Art, and everyone but Richard, Christine and the other vets make cruel fun of him.  In one scene, a pancake house waitress refuses to serve Richard and Art, even though it’s Art’s birthday.  She is positively vicious to Art—then has them arrested for violating what Richard calls the “Ugly Law.”  Twenty years later, they return to the same diner, where the waitress fawns and flirts with Art like he’s Brad Pitt

Okay, we get it.  The A.D.A. made everyone instantaneously abandon their prejudices.  Not.  It’s still a worthwhile movie to watch, especially for the history lesson and the message.  Just don’t expect to be on the edge of your seat.

DVD EXTRAS:

  • Audio commentary by director/producer Seven Sawalich, writer Kelly Kennemer and producer Brett Donowho
  • “The Making of the Music” featurette
  • “Richard Pimentel Tells His Story”
  • Deleted Scenes

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol:  Characters drink and smoke throughout film; some drug use as well.
  • Language/Profanity:  Obscenities and profanities, as well as some crude sexual references.
  • Sexual Content/Nudity:  Several sexual scenes (no nudity) and ongoing sexual talk and references, including a character who has an “open relationship” with a man.
  • Violence:  Soldiers patrol countryside of Vietnam with guns, with deadly fire and explosions; man explodes with rage and breaks a glass door; a few angry exchanges; a mother is verbally and emotionally abusive with her son.