Thursday, February 25, 2010

REVIEW: Tenure

2010 Dramatic Comedy
StarringLuke Wilson, Gretchen Moll, David Koechner, Bob Gunton
Written by Mike Million
Directed by Mike Million
You never should have very high expectations for a straight-to-DVD release, unless it’s a labor of love from an indie director who hand-picked passionate performers and previously went the festivals route. Still not Big Studio aesthetics, but sometimes you find a little gem that you’d like to keep around on your shelf to wash away some turgid Gerard Butler rom-com or other.

After over a decade of teaching in various colleges and always being denied tenure, Charlie Thurber feels he’s facing his ultimate chance with the rural college he’s been at for 3 years. Before reaching his goal though, he’ll need to deal with an over-imposing best friend, a very demanding father and an attractive new department rival.

To be honest I thought Luke Wilson had washed out since he hasn’t been a key player in a major release for a long time –save for an awesome cameo in the equally awesome 3:10 to Yuma. But seeing him chew his scenery in this one indicates the dude simply wanted to keep to the kind of smaller and more heartfelt projects that made him in the first place, like Bottle Rocket or Rushmore. Probably doesn’t help that he always plays Luke Wilson or a close variation, but when the part calls for it he’s a charismatic watch.

The rest of the cast fits equally just as well, especially the great Bob Gunton (Put your faith in the Lord,  your a** belongs to me!) easily given here his best role since Greg The Bunny got prematurely trashed.  Gretchen Moll’s warm and gorgeous smile is a welcome sight, and Sasha Alexander’s small part again begs the question why she’s never given bigger ones.  Only stumbling block is David Koechner, who’s made such a complete a career at portraying annoying dimwits that he just ruins it for me whenever he appears in a film. What can I say – he rubs me the wrong way! Even more in this case as way too much time is devoted to his ill-advised antics than to the more interesting rivalry/friendship between Wilson and Moll’s characters.

That might also be the film’s ultimate short-coming; setting and scope promise an interesting inner look at not only college life viewed from the teacher’s eyes, but at the choices offered and made as one’s thirties start weighing with the knowledge that dreams and and exuberance of younger days are long gone. It should be about still learning to grown up when you’ve stopped growing a while ago, but instead it’s mostly about a poor shmoe trying to save his career and salvage his life while everybody else either help badly or not at all.

On the other  hand, ill-fated comedy aside. The viewer is treated to a slice of life in a microcosm of a small town that recalls fantastic (and admittedly greater) Nobody’s Fool  -  movie and book.  Many pit falls are side-stepped to avoid veering into insidious rom-com territory and even some of the annoyances can still come off as sweet and quietly inspiring. Especially the end twist, which honestly I should’ve seen coming but didn’t, all to the greater advantage of the film.

Tenure ultimately feels and looks like a very-small budgeted movie intended for shelves, but as shuch fares muc h better than most other entries in that same situation. It turns out the kind of film to keep close by on a shelf to be re-watched whenever the mood feels right for something sweet, mild and warm. And in any case, a good first effort f by director Mike Million. I do recommend checking it out when it hits the stores on April 13. Or right now at Blockbuster exclusively. Yeah, they're still opened - I was surprised too!

Final Word: 7.5/10

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