Last fall (of 2001), I took a film class that was taught by the director of this movie (Mark Hoeger). His vast knowledge of filmmaking, his ability to dissect any scene of a film, and his winning of an Academy Award in some obscure category seemed to give him more credibility than your average independent film director. When he mentioned during one of his classes that he had just finished directing a film called "Full Ride" and was in the post-production stages, my interest was piqued. However, that would be the last I would ever hear of that film project. Until last week...
Last week, I saw in a TV listing that "Full Ride" was going to be showing on the WB network. This immediately raised a red flag, as I can't help but associate WB with teensploitation shows such as Dawson's Creek, Charmed, etc. PLUS, the fact that Full Ride was going to be released straight to TV wasn't too flattering in itself. But, nevertheless, I set aside that time and sat down to watch my former film teacher's creation.
After two hours passed and the end credits began to roll, I thought long and hard about what I had just seen. What I had just seen was a typical WB-quality show stretched out to the length of two hours. In fact, it almost seemed as if this movie was made with the sole intent of only showing on the WB network. Critiquing this movie will basically be like critiquing a typical WB show.
Where to begin? The characters are shallow, the story is cliche in every sense of the word, the scenes are completely contrived, and the character development is forced and unbelievable. This movie just screams `unoriginal.'
The main character, Matt Sabo, is some hot shot from the wrong side of the tracks (literally) who plays solid high school football as a fullback, but then fizzles off into a life of crime. He is then offered a chance at a full ride scholarship instead of going to jail. Obviously, without much of a choice, he agrees to play football with an all-star football team, but is not excepted among his peers because of his poor team spirit and bad attitude.
Then comes the love interest. Of course! Where would this predictable fanfare be without a love interest? She comes in the form of Amy Lear (played by the beautiful Meredith Monroe). She is actually a likable character, as opposed to the ever-so-abrasive Matt Sabo, so we almost applaud her when she rejects him at first. But, of course, the inevitable comes to pass. She falls for him, changes his attitude towards everything, and all seems good and happy. But now it's time for conflict!
Earlier in the movie, Amy makes it clear to Matt that she doesn't want to score with him, because it would be `shameful' to her and her mother. This is much to Matt's dismay, and his football buddies (yes, they eventually warm up to him) who bet him he wouldn't get any. But, of course, Matt eventually comes to accept these terms and decides he's not all about the nookie. Here's where the exciting plot thickens. If you don't want me to ruin this surprise, then skip ahead.
Matt finds out from some local guys that apparently Amy Lear always tries to score with a guy each year from the All-Star team so that she can try to use him to escape her small town life of working in a cafeteria (which is baffling in the first place) and make it to the big city. Suddenly realizing he's been used and that his love was a sham, Matt it tempted to turn back to a life of crime and leave the football camp before `the big game.' Amy tries to reassure him that she was really in love this time, but he's too hot-headed to buy it. So what will Matt do? Will he take her back? Or will he go back to robbing gas stations and being an all-round jerk? I won't ruin the super-ultra-surprising ending for you.
So, if I somehow got you pumped up for this movie, please realize that that was my sarcasm and not genuine enthusiasm. This movie is an uninspired version of `Varsity Blues' or `Summer Catch.' And that's not saying much. There's hardly any comedy to save it and the characters are too shallow to care about. So what do you have left? Not a whole lot.
What I most disliked about the movie was how much of an unflattering picture Hoeger painted of Nebraska through this film. It seems like he was trying to capture the essence of rural Nebraska and teenage life in the small towns, but his approach is all too stereotypical and shallow. The characters' high hopes for making in `the big city' and the actions they take to do so are greatly exaggerated, and it only further cements the stereotype of Nebraskans being a bunch of hicks living in farm communities. I am unsure of whether or not Hoeger's intentions were good in trying to put his home state in the spotlight, but I think he ended up with a very shameful product. If Hoeger wanted to portray Nebraska in a favorable light, he should have taken a note or two from Alexander Payne. While Payne simply chooses to use Nebraska as a backdrop for his films, Hoeger integrates it into the plot of Full Ride and becomes so entangled in his awareness of where he's shooting, that he ends up churning out superficial garbage that would seem to come from an outsider. If Hoeger actually lived here, you'd think he'd know better than that.
All in all, I am completely disappointed in Hoeger's first big film, and I hope that next time he can combine his knowledge with a little bit of originality to create something different and thought-provoking.
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