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Broken Bridges

It's obviously intended as a star vehicle, but "Broken Bridges" turns out to be a rattletrap jalopy for country music performer Toby Keith. Currently burning off in scattered theatrical bookings, formulaic pic is a plodding snoozer that looks and sounds like a direct-to-DVD title that somehow got lost on its way to Wal-Mart.

With:
With: Toby Keith, Kelly Preston, Lindsey Haun, Burt Reynolds, Tess Harper, Willie Nelson.

It’s obviously intended as a star vehicle, but “Broken Bridges” turns out to be a rattletrap jalopy for country music performer Toby Keith. Currently burning off in scattered theatrical bookings, formulaic pic is a plodding snoozer that looks and sounds like a direct-to-DVD title that somehow got lost on its way to Wal-Mart.

Keith plays Bo Price, a hard-drinking, washed-up country singer who’s shocked into sobriety when he hears that five young soldiers from his Tennessee hometown of Armour Springs were killed in a training mishap. One of the victims was Bo’s younger brother. Another was the sibling of Angela Denton (Kelly Preston), the former sweetheart Bo abandoned when she was pregnant with his child more than 16 years earlier.

Angela had to be a single parent for their daughter, Dixie (Lindsay Haun), while establishing herself as a TV reporter in Florida.

When Angela hears of her brother’s demise, she forces her reluctant offspring — a surly would-be Death Metal rocker — to accompany her to Armour Springs to pay last respects. Naturally, the tragedy also draws Bo back home. Just as naturally, the ex-lovers are conveniently placed in close proximity to each other, as guests at the bed-and-breakfast operated by Angela’s parents (Burt Reynolds, Tess Harper).

“Broken Bridges” proceeds along a thoroughly predictable course, at a pace that gives the aud far too much time to note the creaky plot mechanics of Cherie Bennett’s script. Director Steven Goldman makes a bad situation worse by failing to achieve anything like narrative momentum. Pic often feels like a series of random episodes that were invented on a day-to-day basis.

There’s never any real doubt where the story is going. Bo reconciles with Angela, Angela defrosts her emotionally distant father, and Dixie switches from moody punkette to power balladeer just in time to warble like an “American Idol” hopeful at a memorial concert honoring the deceased soldiers. The only real suspense comes from wondering whether Reynolds — whose face appears to be stretched tighter than a snare drum — will ever be able to crack a smile without doing himself damage.

Keith is game but stiff. He appears animated only when he’s singing one of several original tunes that should drive soundtrack sales. Preston is too tightly wound, and Harper has little to do, but both women come off as sympathetic figures. Haun is a tad too convincing for her own good during scenes where Dixie is insufferably bratty. Reynolds is believably taciturn.

Overall grayish look of visuals — especially during interior scenes — may not be so noticeable when pic isn’t digitally projected onto a huge megaplex screen.

Broken Bridges

Production: A Paramount Classics release of a Paramount Home Video and CMT Films presentation of a Chickflicks Prods. and Donald Zuckerman production. Produced by Sara Risher, Donald Zuckerman. Co-producer: Cathy M. Frank. Directed by Steven Goldman. Screenplay, Cherie Bennett, Jeff Gottesfeld.

Crew: Camera (color), Patrick Cady; editor, Maysie Hoy; music, Toby Keith, Randy Scruggs; music supervisor, Kenn Michael; production designer, Debbie DeVilla; costume designer, Mary Jane Fort; sound (Dolby Digital), Christopher Harvengt. Reviewed at Tinseltown Westchase Theatre, Houston, Sept. 18, 2006. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 104 MIN.

With: With: Toby Keith, Kelly Preston, Lindsey Haun, Burt Reynolds, Tess Harper, Willie Nelson.

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