'Scenic Route' Review

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Josh Duhamel and Dan Fogler star in 'Scenic Route,' a film about two friends on a very rocky -- literally and figuratively speaking -- road trip where they hope to reconnect, but find themselves at odds with the men they've become.

With a script by Kyle Killen ('The Beaver'), 'Scenic Route' takes two comedic actors (Duhamel and Fogler) and puts them out in the desert for what is essentially a dramatic and very dusty two-man play about the people they've become as adults and how they resent both themselves and each other. Fogler plays man-child Carter, a guy who gave up the chance for a respectable, reliable career as a lawyer to pursue his dreams of being a writer, which has led him to living in his car, while Duhamel plays Mitchell, the guy who took the straight and narrow path, gave up his rock n' roll dreams, and settled down with a wife and a kid. You know how it goes: Carter despises how uptight Mitchell has become, while Mitchell despises his loser of a friend, but both have been tied together for so long that it's hard not to call each other out on their respective issues.

This leads them through a dramedy of errors in the desert, as they become stranded and wind up clawing at each other's throats. Much of the film is two grown men screaming at each other, and while at first it seems they're both making cruel assessments of the lives they've chosen to lead, they're both actually keenly perceptive of one another.

Fogler is known for playing brash comic characters, while Duhamel is typically cast as the straight guy in romantic comedies, and both do something here that we've never seen from either actor. Sure, Fogler is still a bit obnoxious, and Duhamel is still relatively straight, but both tap into dramatic, emotional territory that is at times both fascinating and grating to behold. Such is the tone of the film, directed by brothers Michael and Kevin Goetz, who aren't afraid to get intimate with these bruised and beaten characters, particularly when they're bruising and beating each other into the ground. The brothers Goetz use dizzying shots of the expansive desert landscape and the twinkling night sky to great effect, relieving us from the tension at times while also providing a stark reminder of the dire situation at hand.

'Scenic Route' is, at its best, an insightful piece about friends who grow up and evolve, and what that means when you hardly recognize your friend anymore: have you changed for the better, or for the worse? At its worst, the film is two guys shouting and beating each other up in the dirt, and the redundancy of the sequences tends to make the film feel much longer than its 90 minute running time.

Unfortunately, the film has several false endings before approaching the final one: a horribly misguided and unnecessarily ambiguous ending, the type that's become de rigueur in indie flicks recently. Overall, 'Scenic Route' is a thoughtful piece about friendship and adulthood, though it becomes repetitive in both action, theme, and the occasionally insufferable demeanor of its leads.

Rating Meter 6

'Scenic Route' premiered at the 2013 SXSW Film Festival. 

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