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Sundance 2011 Review: SALVATION BOULEVARD

 

Average movies are the hardest to write about. Salvation Boulevard is maddeningly passable at every turn, a film that's somehow entertaining while being kind of...boring. The cast is generally good in movies besides this one: Pierce Brosnan, Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Connelly, Marisa Tomei, Ed Harris, Jim Gaffigan...these are high profile stars headlining a How To Be Commonplace Clinic here. George Ratliff's direction is garden variety, pushing no boundaries and leaving me wondering why this movie played here at all. It seems too "studio" for the Sundance crowd, too polished and neutered to fit in with the daring and brazen films upon which this festival is built.

And speaking of Sundance, there have been an abundance of movies this year involving religion and cults, and Salvation Boulevard is no exception. It follows Carl and Gwen Vanderveer (Connelly and Kinnear), members of the Church of The Third Millennium - a mega-church run by pastor Dan Day (Brosnan). The opening scene features a debate on the existence of God between Dr. Paul Blaylock (Harris) and Pastor Day, and through a series of ridiculous coincidences, an event occurs that puts the entire story in motion. The problem is that even after this shift happens, the movie still isn't particularly interesting - even though it feels like it should be. There are the typical mocking potshots taken at organized religion, but nothing original enough to stand out.

The movie is fairly broad, and plays more like a comedy of errors than anything. Marisa Tomei's character is a hippie campus security guard who's really into the Grateful Dead, and when the you-know-it's-coming pot scene happens, it plays out exactly how you'd expect. In fact, that's the problem with most of the film: a lot of it is predictable. It somehow manages to sustain interest over the course of its runtime, but it's just a straight line all the way through - flat and unexciting. Like most films, it has its moments - Connelly tries valiantly to insert some life with her emphatic performance as a devoted member of the congregation, but her attempts fall flat.

In all honestly, this movie probably isn't worth your time. It's average in all the worst ways and never touches its full potential. Every member of the cast is way better than this; Salvation Boulevard is a one-way street to Boredsville.

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