In this movie ‘The Open Road’ we meet Carlton, as played by Justin Timberlake, who is a minor league baseball player. As we tune in on Carlton it appears he’s not a very good minor league baseball player as he has just flied out to end the game, yet again, and Sam Malone (Ted Danson) is giving him the business on how bad he sucks. Things get worse for Carlton when his granddad (Harry Dean Stanton) informs him that his mom (Mary Steenburgen) needs a heart operation and she’s not going agree to get this heart operation until her ex-husband, Carlton’s father, baseball hall-of-famer Kyle Garrett (Jeff Bridges) shows up by her side.
Carlton and his old man are long estranged but what can you do? His mom is clearly a whackjob but she is his mother and we sons tend to do what our mothers tell us to do. They live in Houston, the old man is in Ohio, he doesn’t have a cell phone so Carlton and his ex-girlfriend Lucy (Kate Mara)… their relationship is mighty complicated… jump on a plane to beg him to honor his mother’s wishes.
Much to Carlton’s surprise, Kyle agrees to go. They head to the airport to catch a plane. This movie isn’t called the open skies, it’s called The Open Road so we know they can’t get on this plane. Zany circumstances force this trio to drive to Houston so Carlton, his old man and Lucy jump in the rental and hit the open road.
As you might imagine revelations, confrontations, introspections… in additions to massive amounts shenanigans will occur. Will Carlton and his old man find that special place? Will Carlton and Lucy rediscover the love they lost? Will they make it to Houston in time to save Carlton’s mom? Tragically… not tragically she’s dies but tragically… we don’t care. We just didn’t care and we are forced to tell you why.
Written and directed by Michael Meredith, the problem that we had with ‘The Open Road’ is that this was a feel good type of story filled with people that didn’t make us feel all that good being around. Almost every last one of them with the exception Harry Dean Stanton’s granddad. Harry Dean’s presence in this movie is doubly pleasing because we didn’t even know that Harry Dean was still alive. Keep it going Harry Dean Stanton.
Justin Timberlake’s character of Carlton is a twenty five year old bitter ass curmudgeon. Just a mighty unpleasant dude. But he’s supposed to be that way because he’s going to get better by the time this movie is over, at least in theory. That didn't happen, as far as we could see, but let’s ignore that for now. His mother as played by the extremely talented and lovely Mary Steenburgen is an unpleasant spoiled brat. Is she fifty three or twelve? Maybe a little bit more was needed to be put into why she needed her selfish, self-centered, jerk of an ex-husband by her side which would’ve helped us get behind her bratty decision to risk her life a little more. This was pretty damned important since this is what’s driving the movie. I realize they went with the whole ‘first love’ angle, but I wasn’t feeling it and ‘avoiding death’ trumps ‘first love’ everyday of the week where I come from.
So surely the mighty cute chain smoking ex-girlfriend would be a little more palatable but ex-girlfriend over here causes us some concern. She’s the ex-girlfriend, Carlton and Lucy don’t engage in relations anymore but yet they sleep in the same hotel room. That’s a little peculiar. Especially considering that Lucy has a current boyfriend who she is contemplating marrying. I must say that this unseen man that Lucy is pondering marriage too is without a doubt the most understanding man in the history of the universe. I gotta say that if my current girlfriend who I have just proposed to, at the drop of the hat ran off with her ex-boyfriend for whatever reason, and they were sharing hotel rooms together, you’d have to color me concerned and I’d have take her response to my proposal as a definitive ‘no’. Even though she’s telling me ‘Nothin’s goin’ on!’… but I’m insecure like that.
Then there’s Jeff Bridges who does what Jeff Bridges does in this movie and does it about as well as anybody ever has but he was an angry duplicitous curmudgeon too. He just happens to be a better actor than Justin Timberlake so his curmudgeoness was a little more palatable, but like J.T. his character began and ended the movie as pretty much the same dude. The common ground that father and son agreed to meet at seemed to be ‘let’s hate each other less’. But maybe I misread all of that.
I didn’t care for ‘The Open Road’ all that much despite the presence of some mighty talented people and a platinum selling pop star. If want to spend ninety minutes with some unpleasant people who don’t really like each other all that much I’ll go to my in-laws because at least I’ll get a meal out of that.