'Sherman's Way'


A road trip taken through California wine country by two disparate types — one supremely laid back and the other hopelessly uptight — with one of them changed for the better by meeting a gorgeous, free-spirited blonde. No, it's not "Sideways," unfortunately, but rather "Sherman's Way," an indie comedy-drama whose familiarity extends far beyond that comparison.

Tom Nance's screenplay manages not to leave a cliched stone unturned in its depiction of the life-changing encounter between Sherman (Michael Shulman, who also produced), a repressed Ivy League preppie, and Palmer (James LeGros), a former Olympic skier who has fallen on hard times.

After being dumped by his girlfriend, Sherman winds up stranded on the West Coast and reluctantly accepts a ride from the affable Palmer so he can get to an important job interview. The predictable wacky complications ensue, with Sherman finding his natural stuffiness slowly deflated by the shaggy Palmer's relaxed attitude toward life and by his encounters with an eccentric former chef (Enrico Colantoni) and especially Addy (Brooke Nevin).

LeGros infuses his characterization with the necessary charm, but Shulman never quite manages to make the annoying Sherman endearing enough to make us root for his eventual transformation. (partialdiff)