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Film review: 'Elizabethtown' not unwatchable

ELIZABETHTOWN — ** — Orlando Bloom, Kirsten Dunst, Susan Sarandon; rated PG-13 (profanity, vulgarity, violence).

"Elizabethtown" achieves something that seems impossible. While the film goes off in a million different directions, it eventually winds up going nowhere. It's as if writer-director Cameron Crowe emptied all his leftover film concepts into one movie.

At times this comedy-drama seems to be about dealing with the loss of parent. But it also examines feelings of failure and insecurity, explores Southern stereotypes, and tries to address the foibles of modern romance. And then it changes its focus again and turns into a road movie.

The film is not as unwatchable as early reports suggested. It's an interesting failure that will probably be forgotten quickly — particularly by fans of actor Orlando Bloom. He stars as Oregon shoe designer Drew Baylor, who's responsible for a monumental fiasco that has cost the company he works for nearly $1 billion.

Obviously, he's despondent, and he's about ready to end it all when he receives news that his father has died in Kentucky. So he heads home to claim his father's body and make sure his mother's funeral plans (involving cremation) are met.

With all that going on, Drew feels overwhelmed. Fortunately, help comes from an unexpected source — Claire Colburn (Kirsten Dunst), the seemingly too-friendly flight attendant Drew met on his flight to Kentucky.

Among the film's bigger problems is that it has multiple false endings. When the film finally concludes, it comes as a relief.

Also, the comic moments work better than the dramatic elements, which don't ring true. Some of that has to do with Bloom, who still hasn't gotten to the point in his career where he can carry a film. His performance lacks weight and depth, and he seems as if he's trying too hard to mask his natural British accent.

Speaking of accents, Dunst's Kentucky drawl comes and goes, though at least she does bring some much-needed energy and spark to the film.

While the two of them get ample screen time, shame on Crowe for wasting his talented supporting cast, which includes Alec Baldwin, Jessica Biel, Judy Greer and Bruce McGill. Even Susan Sarandon, who plays Drew's mother, has very little to do, save for a weird tap-dancing routine near the end. (And shame on Crowe again for subjecting audiences to yet another cover version of Lynyrd Skynyrd's tiresome Southern rock hit "Freebird.")

"Elizabethtown" is rated PG-13 for scattered use of strong profanity (including two usages of the so-called "R-rated" curse word), some crude humor and references, and some violence (including some explosive mayhem, seen in a video). Running time: 117 minutes.


E-mail: jeff@desnews.com