Worse yet, it attempts to access our emotions through one of the most unhealthy parenting tactics ever: "JUST SAY YES".  Maybe I'm just a stick-in-the-mud, but the film promotes this credo with too much conviction.  The oldest son even swears with impunity (including the F-word) without Dad so much as batting an eye.  Now granted, it doesn't offer sentimental outcomes to all of these freedoms.  Their actions do, in some cases, create difficulties of their own, especially when Joe leaves the boys home alone for two days (that was one "yes" too far, apparently). 

Even so, the negative fallout to that scenario is a real stretch.  The setup to the disaster that occurs while Dad's away (such as it is—and it could've been worse, considering) is a weakly constructed cause-and-effect.  As with everything else in the movie, an improbable series of events are cobbled together so as to elicit a major dramatic crisis, rushing through the details in order to quickly engineer "a moment."  I can't accuse the film of being overly-sentimental, but it's paradoxically lazy while trying too hard.

The most consistent example of this faulty pattern is six-year-old Artie and his inability to process his mother's death, which is as peculiar as Joe's "JUST SAY YES" response.  While never established as having any developmental problems or form of Autism, Artie's grieving process is oddly distant, indifferent, and even cold.  Honestly, it's just plain weird (and makes his angry outbursts feel forced), though it fits into a movie that consistently expects us to respond emotionally to things that never fully make sense.

There must've been a core resonance to Joe Warr's original memoir, but somewhere along the way it got lost in translation.  Clive Owen is more-than-up to the task of the role's emotional demands (indeed, he delivers) but the script and direction are not, at all.  For being based on a true story, The Boys Are Back feels horribly false.  It's real-life drama as only Hollywood constructs it.

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol Content:  Drinking, some underage partying. 
  • Language/Profanity:  A wide range of profanities used, though not constantly, including a few expressions of the Lord's name in vain and one F-word.
  • Sexual Content/Nudity:  A man makes an explicit reference to masturbation.
  • Violence/Other:  A fist-fight in a bar.

 

Jeffrey Huston is a film director, writer and producer at Steelehouse Productions in Tulsa, Okla.  He is also cohost of "Steelehouse Podcast," along with Steelehouse Executive Creative Mark Steele, where each week they discuss God in pop culture. 

To listen to the weekly podcast, please visit www.steelehouse.com or click here.  You can also subscribe to "Steelehouse Podcast" through iTunes.