23 Blast

Posted by Joel Copling on October 24, 2014

If movies had a recipe, I suppose "23 Blast" would be made of corn, ham, cheese, and more than sprinkling on each of molasses. There isn't anything wrong with an aversion to subtlety, especially when you're working with a true story made for CBS or the Hallmark Channel, but this is a few dozen steps beyond an aversion to subtlety. It's a film that not only has no subtlety in its vocabulary, its dictionary doesn't even consider the word. Nearly every scene holds a manipulation for waterworks, to the point that it only draws either stony-faced boredom (the sheer amount of pep talks, which begin to blur together) or bad laughs (Only one of them is genuine, but it has the misfortune of occurring during a scene in which a blind teenager attempts to drive a truck through the parking lot of his school while people are walking on it).

And it's a shame, because this really is a story to tug at the heartstrings. Travis Freeman (Mark Hapka) is the star football player of his Kentucky high-school team. Overnight, he is afflicted with irreversible blindness due to a hyperactive infection in his sinuses. Thus, he must learn everything again (and, along the way, bump comically into things like walls and get-well balloons). His best friend from childhood, Jerry Baker (Bram Hoover, who also co-wrote the screenplay with his mother Toni), has been sidelined for months and resents Coach Ferris' (Stephen Lang) decision to let him keep playing football, in spite of his visual impairment (They don't need an coaching assistant on this ragtag team?).

The film all but forgets about the significance of any other figures in this kid's life. His parents (Dylan Baker, who also directed the film, and Kim Zimmer) overact egregiously to everything surrounding them, his girlfriend Ashley (Alexa Vega) is simply there, well, to become his girlfriend after the previous one abandons him without a word following the loss of his eyesight, his mobility coach Patty Wheatley (Becky Ann Baker in probably the movie's best performance) isn't seen at all in the third act to this viewer's memory, and the only reason Timothy Busfield appears as the academic director is to establish an antagonistic presence because the script wants him to be one. "23 Blast" is a movie that doesn't deserve the respect it would have gotten by being on the Hallmark Channel, but they probably would have been better off taking it on.

Film Information

Mark Hapka (Travis Freeman), Bram Hoover (Jerry Baker), Stephen Lang (Coach Ferris), Max Adler (Cameron Marshall), Alexa Vega (Ashley), Dylan Baker (Larry Freeman), Kim Zimmer (Mary Freeman), Becky Ann Baker (Patty Wheatley), Timothy Busfield (Duncan).

Directed by Dylan Baker and written by Toni and Bram Hoover.

Rated PG-13 (teen drinking).

98 minutes.

Released on October 24, 2014.