Combustible Celluloid
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With: Carly Schroeder, Dermot Mulroney, Elizabeth Shue, Christopher Shand, Karl Girolamo, Vasilios 'Billy' Mantagas, Donnie Gray, Emma Bell, Hunter Schroeder, Trevor Heins, Josh Barclay Caras, Madison Arnold, John Doman, Andrew Shue, Julia Garro, Karl Schellscheidt, James Biberi, Lou Sumrall, Peter McRobbie, Chris Heuisler, Jack Walker, C.C. Loveheart, Leslie Lyles, Tashya Valdevit, Jay Patterson, Brian Smiar, Robens Jerome, Dan Metcalfe
Written by: Lisa Marie Petersen, Karen Janszen, based on a story by Andrew Shue, Davis Guggenheim
Directed by: Davis Guggenheim
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for brief sexual content
Running Time: 95
Date: 03/12/2007

Gracie (2007)

1 Star (out of 4)

Soccer Shues

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Brother and sister Elizbeth Shue (an Oscar nominee for Leaving Las Vegas) and Andrew Shue (from TV's "Melrose Place") team up to tell this very personal story of their childhood, their late brother and their love for soccer. Unfortunately, this is one of those times when keeping a family scrapbook would have been far more effective. Their film Gracie tumbles headfirst into the tired, bloated "inspirational sports drama" formula, following each required turn so blindly and blandly that it ends in yawns rather than cheers.

In 1978 New Jersey, Gracie (Carly Schroeder -- almost a dead ringer for a teenage Heather Graham) has an oddly close, tender relationship with her brother. They never fight and she tells him she loves him just before he gets into a car with his buddies. Not surprisingly, he dies. Gracie decides to try out for his place on the team, but everyone else agrees that it's crazy for girls to play soccer. In a lighter movie (like The Karate Kid, in which Elizabeth also starred), we'd get the quirky coach who trains her, but this time the job falls to her emotionally repressed father (Dermot Mulroney). Elizabeth Shue plays a version of her own mother, frowning and folding laundry a lot, while Andrew plays a concerned teacher.

Put your money on the movie to climax with the Big Game, during which Gracie gets her Big Chance, despite the efforts of her evil teammates who, with little concern for their own future, wish to stop her. In-between, the movie gives us emotionally wrenching dribbling practices in the rain, accompanied by a jumbo-sized musical score, as well as heavy symbolism like the family's pet bird, trapped in a cage much too small for it. (Get it? Gracie is like the bird!)

Oddly, this clueless concoction comes from a recent Oscar-winner, Davis Guggenheim, the man who made a slide show so captivating in An Inconvenient Truth. The trouble with Gracie no doubt comes from everyone's efforts to honor the real-life Shue story, a heavy burden that probably hamstrung all creative impulses as well as any tendency toward humor. To put it into a soccer metaphor, rather than taking a free kick and letting it fly, they've allowed the ball to deflate and sputter to a dead stop. Gracie{subid}&url=hitlist.asp?searchfield=marvel
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