Review: Seven Days in Utopia

This review originally appeared on Cinedelphia.com

Seven Days in Utopia is perhaps the most blatant piece of propaganda I have recently come across in mainstream cinema. The new “inspirational” sports drama based on the novel Golf’s Sacred Journey: Seven Days at the Links of Utopia follows young pro golfer Luke Chisholm (Lucas Black) as he learns zen and the art of proper putting technique under the tutelage of reformed drunk and retired PGA golfer Johnny Crawford (Robert Duvall) in Utopia, Texas.

This film treads entirely on the surface and how Luke ends up in Utopia is inconsequential. Suffice it to say that after a dismal performance at the previous year’s Texas Open complete with grown man temper tantrums, the relationship between Luke and his overbearing father and caddy implodes on national television. Still haunted by the event, Luke drives off in a huff towards Utopia, narrowly misses hitting a cow in the middle of the road, and instead crashes into Johnny’s fence. Just like God’s green earth, the car will take seven days to make new again, which is perfect because that’s exactly how long it takes for Luke to get back his game face under Johnny’s ever watchful eye.

What follows is a bland sequence of formulaic events spanning the titular seven days and the following PGA Texas Open. By divine grace, Johnny  just happens to have built a golf course in this town of less than 500 people and each day Luke learns a different lesson about life and golf in an unorthodox way. “[Blank] is a lot like golf,” says Johnny, and like a white southern Mr. Miyagi he proceeds to tutor Luke in the ways of fly fishing, painting, and even aviation, all the while insisting that these activities have connections to “the game.” And as any good man with daddy issues can do, Luke rolls his eyes and obeys.

It isn’t until the third act that Seven Days clumsily morphs from a run-of-the-mill inspiration film into one of outright evangelical Christian recruitment. I was not entirely prepared to find Luke on his knees crying in prayer, or see Johnny stride into a church on Easter morning with a country-rock song repeating the words “born again” playing in the background. The Christian angle even includes a chaste romantic relationship between Luke and Sarah, a drink of sweet southern tea played by Deborah Ann Woll (ironically of True Blood fame). There’s nothing more awkward then watching adults stumble through a conversation like they’re at a 5th grade dance. They get to hug!

Recruitment of any kind requires action and that’s precisely what we get as Seven Days presents the audience with probably the most random ending I have ever seen. Per the sports film formula, Luke is in the showdown of his life to determine the winner of the Texas Open. He takes out his secret weapon, a club bestowed to him by Johnny, and takes his shot. Freeze! The camera then pans upward towards the heavens before we are able to see if in fact fly fishing is the secret to sinking a putt. I sat through this movie, even resisted a bathroom break to see this guy get his mandatory redemption and instead I was met with a black screen and the phrase,  “to continue the journey…go to http://www.didhemaketheputt.com.” Yes, a website. Needless to say, this was met with laughs at our screening. If the website (which launches today) is anything like the one for the book, it is a direct call for church membership.

Religious browbeating aside, Seven Days is at its core a poorly made film. Director Matthew Dean Russell cuts hard and fast in an attempt to create moments of drama and emotion where, quite frankly, there are none to be had. Four screenwriters are credited for this film and it shows with dialogue that is stilted, hokey, and devoid of the very conviction the movie is trying to impress upon viewers. And for a film that probably didn’t need any, Seven Days also features some of the worst effects shots I’ve seen all year which is disappointing given Russell’s background as an effects supervisor.

This film is obviously made for a subculture I don’t understand, and I want to respect it as such. I could actually forgive its self-righteousness if the film was able to tell a good story in an interesting way. But it doesn’t. Ultimately, Seven Days in Utopia is an advertisement that treats its audience like sheep in every way imaginable.

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7 thoughts on “Review: Seven Days in Utopia

  1. Sorry you look at the film this way, the film to me was just a feel good movie to me. It reassures me that in this plastic world that we live in I can find a sense of peace and honesty. i can have faith that my higher power is working when he is called upon for help as I felt he was in the movie . Through a group of very simple towns people this golfer learned to face his inner most self and recognize that he is not perfect and that it is O.K.. That through faith in a higher power we can achieve the important things in our lives and that is love and care for our fellow man without judgement ,we can learn to be selfless and not selfish,that our goals should not be EGO driven but should be driven by what is right. The movie may not have been the greatest but it definitely had a good lesson. Today I can look past the religious aspect of this movie , that is because I feel close to my higher power, whom I call my creator, God. I personally do not think he cares long as I keep trying to follow him the best I can and keep on doing the next right thing . All that is required In my personal opinion is not to THINK ,just listen and the answers come than I take action. Good feel good movie, sorry that in your eyes it was a blatant piece of propaganda. I guess I used to kind of think like that,today I just do not disect movies I just sit back and enjoy ,and maybe see what the message is in it for me.

  2. Is the movie destined to be a great classic? Of course not., but in this day when movies put in gratuitious sex and violence, and make fun of one’s faith, it is nice to see a film come along that one can watch with one’s mother-in-law without fear of embarassement. Just good clean fun.

  3. I loved this movie, such a break from so much cursing, killing, etc. Sorry that some look at it from a negative. I am a Christian, but this movie, even tho comes into faith based, is good for everyone to see a positive that a life can get with people believing in you. Too many lives are broken and destroyed because no one believes that the person is capable of moving forward and has a life worth living. Pursue happiness by believing in yourself and others. I do have faith in God, but whether some do or dont this movie is asking, what is your life going to be, positive or negative, its up to you.

  4. oh by the way, the song that was sung, is not a country song. It is a contemporary christian song, by Third Day, featuring lead singer Mac Powell. Awesome group, love their music and their faithfullness to Jesus Christ and spreading his love to a hurting and dying world. Love to ALL PEOPLE!!!!!

  5. I loved this movie! Maybe you don’t understand the subculture because you don’t share the Christian faith…it was heartwarming, touching, and totally real…

  6. You are right! We are sheep and some of us do get led a stray. I think that you may be one of them. The movie does push God and I am glad someone in Hollywood has the guts to make this movie.

    Hey, they laughed at Noah too! i pray you see the light before your time is up. And you are so true in that you don’t understand this subculture! Maybe you should look into this culture!
    The making of the putt is never going to make you a better person! May God Somehow touch your life in the near future so you can use your movie intelligence for the glory of the most high God who just so happens to have created you and everything in this universe!
    Thanks for your time.

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