Review: ‘Elizabethtown’

The feel-good early-thirty-something, fish-out-of-water, romantic comedy and death-dealing drama of the year.

After Drew Baylor (Orlando Bloom) learns that his life’s work has not only failed but may cost the company he no longer has a job with almost a billion dollars, he finds himself contemplating the fastest way to move on with his life (or out of it). Before a decision is made, Drew learns that his father passed away in his home city of Elizabethtown, Kentucky, which is also home to all the relatives on his father’s side he’s never met. Life, death, success, and failure all were weighing on Drew’s mind when something finally distracted him: a plucky airline stewardess named Claire (Kirsten Dunst).

Director Cameron Crowe unleashes another continuing-of-adult tale with his usual flair for musical cues, bigger-than-life personalities, and down-home lifestyles that remind too many of us exactly where we came from. With Almost Famous and Jerry Maguire already under his belt, Crowe knows how to tell the stories he wants… and they’re all about the same. Elizabethtown follows the herd of previous Crowe films into warm and snuggly predictability.

When we first meet Orlando Bloom’s character, it’s hard to decide if he’s acting or trying too hard to work on his American accent. In fact, his whole initial range of emotions and facial expressions seems to limited to the mask he wore throughout The Lord of the Rings trilogy. It can be argued, then, that his is perfect casting; when Orlando arrives in Smalltown USA, he does indeed stick out, well, like a foreigner. His voiceover explanation of the events leading up to the inevitable romantic encounter do very little to help us empathize with him, especially since we know what’s going to happen and hope to get on with it.

Then, something happens. The leads stop beating around the bush and start getting romantic with one another. Once this happens, everything in the film is quirky musical montage fun. All the characters that grated on the nerves before suddenly become entertaining right up until the proverbial “boy loses girl” moment. Finally, the film nosedives into an unrelated road trip which looks like it was scripted on the fly and pieced together in the editing room before it finally brings the story back to where it left off, making it one long fluff piece for the haul.

Elizabethtown does what it intends to do, but the way it gets there reeks of the same kind of emotional manipulation that sends the average guy running screaming from the theater. However, it is endurable enough for a cool date movie and ladies that love their chick flicks will find plenty to wallow in (hint: bring tissues). Otherwise, there’s really nothing new or original in Elizabethtown except that it was a little more expensive to make than Garden State (and it’s a tossup whether Natalie Portman is cuter than Kirsten Dunst).

(a two skull recommendation out of four)

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