If you’ve ever wondered what a mash-up of All the Right Moves and Misery as performed by your local high school drama club would look like, look no further than Morgan J. Freeman’s (no, not that one) tediously paced, terribly acted, and borderline misogynistic thriller, Homecoming; yet another in a long line of juvenile male fantasy flicks in which beautiful women, so thoroughly devastated by the loss of a man, will stop at nothing – and I mean nothing - to win him back. Right…and I’m the king of Micronesia.
Matt Long stars as Michael, a college football star making the trek home to one of those depressing little movie towns where life ends after high school, and football means everything. Michael’s alma mater is retiring his uniform number during this year’s homecoming game, and not even the resurrection of Christ, himself, could eclipse the return of Shitsville’s favorite son.
No one is more excited to see Michael than Shelby (Mischa Barton), his gorgeous girlfriend, whose hosting the big after-game bash at her swanky bowling alley. Sadly, the feeling isn’t mutual, as Michael distinctly remembers breaking up with Shelby before going off to college, and has come home with his new girlfriend, Elizabeth (Jessica Stroup), in tow.
Shelby seems to take the news okay, and even spends the rest of the night getting Elizabeth drunk on tequila shooters whilst they swap dirt on Michael. Being an absolute moron, Michael is fooled by Shelby’s charade, and he wanders off to mingle with his adoring minions, including his cousin, failed-athlete-turned-town-sheriff, Billy (Michael Landes, who you may remember as “that guy” from “that thing”).
The party ends and, as the revelers spill out into the streets, Elizabeth tells Michael she’s too drunk to go back to his house and meet his parents. Stroup, obviously a graduate of the Strasberg Institute, illustrates this by shouting and blinking excessively. Billy assures them that everything will be fine, and offers to drop Elizabeth off at the local motel.
Which he does.
He lets her out of the car and speeds away.
Good lookin’ out, Billy.
The problem is, there aren’t any vacancies (it’s homecoming, after all!), so poor drunken Elizabeth has to hoof it back to the bowling alley. As Drunky McDrunkerson shambles her way down the dark and lonely road, a teary-eyed Shelby comes along in her pickup truck and runs her over. Instead of calling an ambulance, Shelby decides to take advantage of the situation, and takes Elizabeth back to her place where she can keep the injured girl out of the way while she tries to win back Michael.
Shelby dopes up Elizabeth, hides her car, and sends Michael a “goodbye” text from Elizabeth’s phone. At first, Michael is incredulous, but, with a little urging from Billy, he accepts that Elizabeth has left him, and, with all of the pieces of her man-trap in place, Shelby patiently awaits the arrival of her prey.
Homecoming isn’t as much terrible as it is wholly unnecessary. This story has been told at least a dozen times, and this teen-friendly treatment not only fails to bring anything new to the table, it fleeces one of the stalker genre’s best and most renowned films in Misery. From the moment Shelby tied Elizabeth down in her deceased mother’s bed, I felt as though I were watching one of those shameless Bollywood rip-offs sans the colorful sets and toe-tapping musical numbers. At first I thought it an homage, but, as Katie L. Fetting’s screenplay veered dangerously close to Annie Wilkes territory, I could almost hear the sound of Stephen King’s army of robot lawyers marching toward Los Angeles.
And speaking of robots, how about that cast? Mischa Barton’s an admittedly attractive girl, but she has no place in front of cameras that shoot moving images (lest they be dirty kind). Barton literally has two expressions; dazed and crying. If she’s not vacantly smiling at the camera like a teenage girl taking pictures of herself for her MySpace page, she’s weeping inconsolably. Stroup doesn’t fare much better, but at least shows a smidge more range (she has a third expression – constipated), while Matt Long takes vanilla to previously unheard of levels of blandness.
Homecoming’s one saving grace lay in the competent direction of Freeman Jr., who manages to craft a visually appealing and professional looking film from the ashes of Fetting’s insipid script. Freeman Jr. is also responsible for the stupid-yet-fun American Psycho 2: All American Girl, so the jury’s still out as to whether or not he can helm a truly good film, but, given how he’s risen above the casts and materials he’s had to work with thus far, I’d say he deserves a shot at it.
Or, at the very least, least hazard pay.