If you like feel-good dramas that play out against a football backdrop, then Anchor Bay Films' “Touchback” will appeal to you as it is released today.
The movie stars former Oklahoma Brian Presley as Scott Murphy, a former football star and family man who is having a rough time making ends meet.
Still known in his small Midwest town of Coldwater as “Mr. Football,” Murphy is tormented by the idea of the success and prosperity that he could have had if only things hadn't gone so badly during his last high school football game. His dramatic touchdown cemented the team's first state football championship but resulted in an injury that ended his athletic career.
At the beginning of the film, everything that could go wrong for the adult Murphy does — at the bank, in his field of soybeans nearly ready for harvest, and throughout the community that in high school he once called “Backwater,” etc. He has a supportive wife (played well by Melanie Lynskey) and loving children, but he is overwhelmed by the weight of trying to fulfill their dreams while knowing he was forced to let go of his own long ago.
Murphy gets his chance at a do-over when, after a series of events, he finds himself back in high school, getting ready for the big game. With all the foresight (hindsight?) of what happens to him as an adult, the teenage Murphy has the chance to make choices that would lead his life in a different direction.
The movie's plot centers on whether he would choose the life he has, problems and all, or a different future.
“Touchback” is similar in theme to “It's a Wonderful Life,” with scenes that recall “Field of Dreams and other back-in-time-for-second-chances movies.
The movie is designed to be an uplifting one about hope and the value of community and making the best of your circumstances, no matter how hopeless they seem. It does its job without getting preachy, even if sometimes it slips into cliches.
Presley is believable both as an older man and as a high-school senior, and Kurt Russell and Christine Lahti do a good job with their characters as the football coach who tries to talk sense into Murphy both as a teen and as an adult, and Murphy's hardworking single mom, respectively. Marc Blucas plays Hall, the friend and teammate who ended up with the lucrative pro career and Murphy's high-school girlfriend (Sarah Wright).
Some of the filming is heavy-handed — a close-up here or a lingering camera there forces viewers to an obvious conclusion or foreshadowing. And a “Field of Dreams”-like segue way from the past back to reality through an actual field is a little bit jarring in that it's very similar to that movie and it doesn't make sense at first.
Even though “Touchback” is predictable at times, it is solid and makes viewers care about the characters and their fates. The movie's target audience will enjoy its uplifting message that they can share with their families, despite its PG-13 rating for some mature thematic elements.
— Lillie-Beth Brinkman
Starring: Brian Presley, Kurt Russell, Christine Lahti, Marc Blucas, Sarah Wright. (Mature