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Thursday, November 1, 2012

CROOKED ARROWS -- DVD review by porfle

According to some comments on IMDb, CROOKED ARROWS (2012) bears a strong resemblance to another sports underdog comedy, "The Mighty Ducks."  I never saw that particular film, but I can attest to this one's many similarities to, among other films, the earlier "The Bad News Bears."  It's as though these things pop out of the same mold like gelatin, with only a few of the ingredients changed. 

Here, the usual "crappy sports team makes good" tale involves a high school lacrosse team composed of aimless young Native Americans who have lost sight of their cultural heritage, to the point where they don't even realize the game they're playing was given to their tribe by the Creator himself and is known as "the medicine game."  Thus, one of those new ingredients is a large slathering of overbearing and occasionally self-righteous religious mysticism that eventually finds each team member going on a spirit quest to discover his own personal animal guide.  Oooookay.

Discovering one's self, however, isn't limited to the players.  Brandon "New Superman" Routh plays Joe Logan, a Sunaquat tribe member who runs the reservation's casino and is regarded as a sell-out by his peers even though he puts a whole lot of money back into the community.  I was on his side from the start although I think we're all supposed to look down our noses at him the same way his dad Ben (Gil Birmingham) and sister Nadie (Chelsea Ricketts) do, in addition to his ex-girlfriend Julie (Crystal Allen), a Caucasian who teaches at the local high school and is an expert on Sunaquat culture. 

Joe wants to expand the casino but the tribal council decrees that he must first pass a spirit test given by his dad.  Ben decides that Joe will take over his position as coach of the lacrosse team, with the plucky Nadie as his assistant, in hopes that this will help him progress spiritually.  Joe, we find later, once had a bad lacrosse-related experience in his past and resists the idea, to no avail. 

So before he knows it, he's trying to whip a bunch of no-account misfits into a semblance of a team he dubs the "Jackpots."  Along the way, a tribal sage known as Crooked Arrow (Dennis Ambriz) will lend the team his name in addition to his great wisdom, which will naturally make them all better lacrosse players. 

And just as the Bears had their secret weapon--baseball bad-ass Kelly Leak--the Crooked Arrows will acquire an invincible player in the brawny Sasquatch-like Maug, who lives in the forest.  They'll also have a Timmy Lupus equivalent in Julie's timid son Toby (Jack Vandervelde), who, as you might guess, will get his chance to come off the bench for that one big confidence-building, day-saving play.

All the other hoary cliches are trotted out one by one and checked off the list by rote as the team fails miserably for the first half of the season only to find the inspiration to come back strong enough to threaten the seemingly invincible first-place team ("Coventry Academy" in this case, a stereotypical group of cocky young Aryans for us to root against).   

Most of the game play is shown in rapidly-edited montage style so that we get brief, deafeningly-scored impressions of what's going on rather than actually settling into the game--director Steve Rash seems to be in a hurry to bombard us with all the standard tropes along with copious shots of the good guys leaping, cheering, and pumping their fists in slow-motion.  By the final act, subtlety gets stomped into oblivion once and for all by an onslaught of self-congratulatory tribal togetherness that turns the act of actually finishing the big game into a mere formality. 

The DVD from 20th-Century Fox Home Entertainment is in 1.78:1 widescreen with Dolby 5.1 sound and subtitles in English and Spanish.  Extras consist of a commentary with director Rash and producers Mark Ellis and Neal J. Powless, plus theatrical trailer and four behind-the-scenes featurettes. 

As a pro-Native American tract designed to instill pride and raise spiritual and cultural awareness in young tribe members who have lost their moral compass, CROOKED ARROWS does a pretty good job.  As a comedy, it's pretty grim.  And as a sports flick, it's so ridiculously over-the-top that you can either enjoy its "so bad it's good" qualities or retreat into your own personal spirit quest until it's over.

Buy it at


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What strikes me, aside from the expected cliched sports tropes, is all the 'native American' characters portrayed by honkies.


~ Paul