Starring Lucas Till, Josh Duhamal, Maria Bello, Tom Everett Scott, Laura Dern, Jae Head
The directorial debut of Daniel Duran is marked with good intentions. Bravetown, formerly titled Strings, can’t decide if it’s an MTV dance special in small town USA, or a military recruitment story suffering from the unforgiving nature of war. Duran’s direction with Oscar Orlando Torres isn’t smart enough to be both. X-Men First Class star Lucas Till who helms from Fort Hood, Texas, is completely miscast as a drug addicted, DJ from New York who is shipped off to live with his dad or face incarceration. Till’s Southern dialect and mannerisms are unaskable. Oscar nominee Laura Dern (Wild) and Maria Bello (Prisoners) are sadly mothers written without much depth. Everything falls in the lap of Josh Duhamel (Transformers) who is the face of the poster, but a supporting character at best.
Before he is shipped off to small town USA to live with his father (Scott), Josh’s mother (Bello) makes it very clear that she didn’t want to have him in the first place. His entire life he has felt unwanted, now being pulled away from everything he knows in the city; Josh (Till) will find his purpose in the most unlikely of places. His friendship with underclassmen Tony (Head) is the encouragement he needs to lend his DJ mixing skills to the high schools struggling dance team. His famous internet remixes inspires the team to go farther in competitions than ever before, plus Mary (Kherington Payne), the dance captain, falls for the introverted blond and all his secrets. Slowly Josh begins to understands the loss the entire town feels, extending to Mary who lost her brother and the connection it has to his court appointed shrink (Duhamel).
Good intentions only get you so far, and Bravetown continuously fights for a reason to keep the viewer from abandoning the movie altogether.
The moments where Bravetown succeeds are only when we feel empathy for our lead being so universally unwanted by the adults who surround him. Till’s performance doesn’t make it easy for the audience to always root for him, but as the story progresses, as too does his maturity. If the initial goal of the film was to highlight the tragedy and sorrow of war, while also showing support for our military, both fail as the majority of the screen time focuses on dance routines and competitions. We could see that we could see in one of those Step Up movies. Bravetown feels producer driven, as if it started out as one thing, and was turned into something else that could likely make more money.
The good intentions however can be felt throughout the film. A tree in the middle of town is decorated with hanging lanterns and medals from local fallen soldiers. Mary explains that the medals hang in the tree because parents don’t want to believe their loved are gone. In the most uninspired way, the film does show repercussions of drug abuse, bad parenting, and the consequences of poor communication skills. Good intentions only get you so far, and Bravetown continuously fights for a reason to keep the viewer from abandoning the movie altogether.
Despite good intentions, Bravetown can’t decide if it’s a dance competition story or a post war era drama.