Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Dennis Quaid, Zac Efron, Kim Dickens, Heather Graham, Maika Monroe, Clancy Brown, Ben Marten, Red West
Written by: Ramin Bahrani, Hallie Elizabeth Newton
Directed by: Ramin Bahrani
MPAA Rating: R for sexual content including a strong graphic image, and for language
Language: English
Running Time: 105
Date: 26/04/2013
IMDB

At Any Price (2013)

1 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Broken Farm

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Writer/director Ramin Bahrani has made three acclaimed, character-based independent movies (Man Push Cart, Chop Shop, and the lovely Goodbye Solo), so it's baffling that his newest, At Any Price, is so shallow and clumsy. It seems to want to say something about the plight of corn farmers in America today, and it imparts its information clearly, but apparently at the expense of everything else.

The Whipple family has been in the corn business for generations. Henry (Dennis Quaid) tries to run his farm with all the modern conveniences as well as making money by selling genetically manufactured seeds for a big corporation. Problems arise when his oldest son refuses to come home from globetrotting adventures, and his arrogant, petulant younger son, Dean (Zac Efron), only wants to race cars. Meanwhile, Henry is under investigation for re-using seeds, and is also losing business to a competitor (Clancy Brown). Oddly, Henry's illicit lover (Heather Graham) decides to seduce Dean. Things get even worse when Dean gets into a fight, with disastrous results. Can the Whipple family save the farm and get things back on track again?

The actors seem to have been asked to give very clipped, elevated performances, especially Dennis Quaid, whose character is a smarmy salesman. Zac Efron, on the other hand, responds to every situation with his usual dead-eyed, blank stare. Several plot threads, especially one about racing cars seems, clumsily dropped, and a potentially interesting female teen character is likewise abandoned. If I didn't know better, I'd assume that the movie had been counterbalanced and re-worked to offset Efron's empty nothingness.

Like many bad, stupid films aimed at children, At Any Price looks like it was made for people in the midwest, but made by someone who assumes that they're all idiots. Aside from the educational value, the movie is just a mystifying waste of time.

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