What would you do if you had the chance to go back and change the most pivotal moment in your life, and thus change it for the better? Although, “better” is a matter of opinion. Touchback is not the typical high school football film. The story is that Murphy (Brian Presley), who broke his leg during the state championship football game and lost his scholarship to Ohio State University, is now living with his wife and two daughters trying to make ends meet farming beans. Just when he’s taken about as much as he can, he wakes up to find himself back in time, 18 again, and just days before the big game that changed the course of life. His future wife, Macy (Melanie Lynskey; Away We Go) thinks he’s a dumb jock. He’s still best friends with teammate Hall (Marc Blucas; Buffy The Vampire Slayer), who he knows will go on to have a professional football career. And most importantly, his leg isn’t crippled yet.
It’s a personal preference, but anything involving time travel automatically has a few points going for it. I’m fascinated with how these types of stories can play with structure, and that they don’t necessarily have to be strictly science fiction. The time travel element can be as subtle as the movie using it needs. Here, it’s extremely peripheral. It’s never explained or addressed. It just happens. Once the audience accepts that, they’re able to move on with the rest of the film.
Even though Touchback works to be unique, it still has some annoying characteristics in common with the typical football movie. There are a few too many rousing speeches set to swelling music for my taste. In fact, it seems to be Kurt Russell’s entire role in the film as the team’s coach. It’s not that it’s badly written, but anytime these types of speeches get forced into a film like this, it quickly loses believability for me. But again, the time travel aspect does take some of the emphasis off believability, and makes it easier to take.
It’s not surprising how the film ends. I pretty much had it figured out from the time Murphy is thrown back in time. I would have liked a surprise in the end, because this predictability really drags down the quality of the film for me. On the other hand, if it had ended differently, perhaps it would have felt too inorganic to the characters. Hard to say. I will commend the ending in that it does unfold in an unexpected way. It’s reminiscent of It’s a Wonderful Life, but in The Twilight Zone.
Other than that, my only criticism is that none of the actors believably look 18 years old. This is common in films about high school, but this one is particularly bad here. I get that they had to find some equilibrium with this because we see all the characters as teenagers and in their 30s. Hiring teenage actors and trying to make them look that much older with makeup might not have been as effective as the final result here, but it seems possible to me. Even hiring different actors to play the characters at different ages could have been very effective.
Special features include audio commentary by writer/director Don Handfield, and a making of Touchback featurette. The movie is visually interesting and I think worth getting in Blu-ray if you have the option.
Available on Blu-ray and DVD from Anchor Bay on September 4