"Tell the folks back home this is the promised land callin', and the poor boy's on the line!" Oh man, I am so old, but hey, not even my taste in music is close to as old as Hal Holbrook, yet that's not going to stop him from working until he, I don't know, gets a haircut and loses his power, which just has to be growing with each passing year in which Holbrook sustains the same hairdo he's always had (87 years old, and that do is still lookin' good; nice work, Hal), and appears to be stored in Holbrook's ears. I know ages comes with ear expansion, but seriously, I kept waiting for Holbrook to challenge John Krasinski to an air race, even though Krasinski was sure to win, seeing as how he's got those kind of gliding ears. Speaking of Dumbo, John Krasinski's a decent-looking dude and all, but he looks a little bit like a cartoon, so I guess that means that Emily Blunt really is perfect for him, which is probably why Krasinski's in this film keeping an eye on Matt Damon, Blunt's co-star in last year's "The Adjustment Bureau" (Shoot, even I'm impressed to see that I remembered that film), because he doesn't want to run the risk of having good ol' Will Hunting go back to his days of "hunting" out the English ladies. Shoot, Krainski is hanging out with Damon so much that he's gone so far as to co-write this film's screenplay, so if anyone's relationship is threatened here, it's Ben Affleck's relationship with Damon, and it doesn't really help that this film is directed by Gus Van Sant, the very guy who helped give Affleck and Damon their big break. That's right, folks, the Damon-Van Sant dream team is back together, only without Chuckie Sullivan, which is a shame, because you should never have to choose between your kids, though, if you ask me, if Van Sant is to stick with any young star from his "Good Will Hunting" days, it is, well, probably Ben Affleck, because while he's off making "Argo", Damon is the one who's making the improvable decisions. No, people, this film is decent, but really, this film doesn't quite deliver on the goods that its concept - yes, I'm gonna say it... here it comes... get ready... - "proposed" (Ha!), though certainly delivers on some flaws.
The film entertains just fine, and such entertainment value really helps in getting the final product by, yet after a while, as with plenty of other Gus Van Sant films, all of that fun dies down a bit, never to slip into dullness, but nevertheless dip just enough in kick to bland things up a bit and somewhat distance investment. At the very least, this film's slow spells get to be bland enough to simply distance engagement value, leaving the film to, at least for a moment, find itself unable to fully sustain your attention, and it doesn't help that this film's story structure sometimes finds itself limply dragged out a bit by a degree of repetition that further distances emotional investment, and isn't exactly the only flaw in this film's script. I don't know if it's because Ben Affleck is a stronger writer than Matt Damon, who Affleck made look better, or because John Krasinski is a weaker writer than Damon, who Krasinksi drags down, but either way, the fact of the matter is that, in this film, we're definately not looking at the Oscar-winning script that stood behind "Good Will Hunting", for although Damon's and Krasinski's script is decently colorful, you can expect to see this film slip into quite a few writing hiccups, or, at the very least, plotting tropes, as this film is not too much more than nothing if not conventional, hitting one familiar plot and characterization beat after another, until predictability sets in, or at least seems to, as this film ends on a note whose weakness is hard to see coming. Okay, now, maybe this film's conclusion isn't quite as frustrating as some say, but it does offer a lapse in intelligence that certainly throws you off as a particular height in the superficiality that can, to one degree or another, be found more than it should throughout the film, establishing characters with only so many genuine layers, and delivering certain controversial themes rather heavy-handedly. This film is a liberal one, and while there are a few notes to this project's agenda that I find somewhat noble, I'm not entirely on board with this film's thematic depth, which is made all the more disoncerting by pieces of intelligence's going all too often met by pieces of superficiality that not only drain thematic depth of much in the way of subtlety, but dilute the full punch behind this film's reasonably promising story concept, thus the fair deal of thin spots in said story concept go brought more to attention. It's not like the film was to ever be too strong, as its story concept, while with potential, isn't without its relatively thin spots, yet a bit too much goes undercut by a flawed script and often kind of bland storytelling, until what remains of a promising plot is a cliched, somewhat superficial, overambitious and altogether barely all that memorable effort. Still, no matter how much the film disappoints, in a few ways, the final product never comes out so underwhelming that you can't stick with it, as it, as I said, succeeds just fine as entertainment, or at least as a visually handsome film.
Now, the film isn't exactly a stunning testament to photography, because it's decidedly not that kind of film, but for what it is, this film is quite the looker, with cinematographer Linus Sandgren delivering on a handsome emphasis on darker colors, though not to where lighting and color come off as oddly grimy, thus giving the film a kind of attractive warmth to its looks that liven up atmosphere a bit. The film isn't particularly remarkable in its visual style, but it is more handsome than expected, finding the right balance between bland and bleak in order to deliver on quite a bit of appealing visual calmness that may occasionally find itself stylized up enough to not entirely fit with this film's storytelling atmosphere of limited weight, but generally graces the final product with a distinct degree of aesthetic liveliness that backs up the also reasonably commendable, if limited degree of intellectual liveliness within the film's script. Again, as a writing team, Matt Damon and John Krasinski make more than a few errors, from plotting cliches to superficiality in this film's subject matter's thematic weight, which, in all fairness, I wouldn't have been entirely on board with, even without the heavy-handedness, due to its being a bit too liberal for my tastes, yet for every misstep, Damon and Krasinski turn in a strength, notably when it comes to the intelligence level, which may lapse at times, but often presents certain aspects behind this subject matter with about as much cleverness that can be found in a film this liberal. The film is genuinely interesting at times, when Damon and Krasinski really put some kick into their, by the liberals, rather washed brains, but really, if Damon and Krasinski do nothing else as writers, it's deliver on colorful punch-up, because even though Damon isn't turning in the lively snappers that he consistently delivered on when he teamed up with his good buddy, Ben Affleck, in his last effort with Gus Van Sant, there are still plenty of points in dialogue that catch your attention as genuinely clever, while certain moments in humor range from decent to surprisingly quite amusing. The film isn't quite as witty as it could have been, but there really is quite a bit of cleverness to, at the very least, the punch-up behind Damon's and Krasinski's script, a mess, but one that offers its share of intelligent moments to break up consistent color in punch-up that help in driving this film as an entertainment piece, truly brought to life by the fair deal of lively points in Gus Van Sant's storytelling, as well as carried by the color within this film's talented cast. This film's characters aren't as meaty in structure as they perhaps should have been, no matter how dramatically limited this film is, even in concept, yet the characters who power this film's story recieve about as much care as they can as hardly layered components to a somewhat thin story, and that's good, especially when these characters go brought to life by a myriad of colorful performers, all of whom share fine chemistry, as well as distinct charisma by their own individual rights. Now, the film isn't as considerably flawed as I make it sound,, but it could have been more, and yet, what the final product ultimately is is powered by colorful strengths that are perhaps stronger than I make them sound, not so much so that the final product comes off as all that rewarding, but certainly to where you end up with a film that is genuinely entertaining on the whole, regardless of its bland areas.
Overall, the film goes blanded up by slow spells, made all the worse by some repetitious plotting that taint Matt Damon's and John Krasinski's script, though decidedly not as much as cliches that spark predictability, and superficiality that leaves characters and themes to not go as thoroughly explored as they probably should be, thus emphasizing the story thinness that goes into making this film a disappointing one, but doesn't quite underwhelm enough to fully undercut what is done right with this film, a handsomely shot piece of entertainment that boasts a flawed, but sometimes genuinely intelligent script that, more than anything, turns in quite a bit of cleverness to dialogue and humor, - brought to life by lively areas in Gus Van Sant's storytelling, and a near-wealth of charisma within the cast - as well as enough nobility in ambition to make "Promised Land" a generally entertaining opus, though one that could have used more effort to back up ambition.
2.5/5 - Fair