The Open Road -- Film Review

Jeff Bridges and Justin Timberlake play a pair of estranged father-and-son baseball players in "The Open Road," a dreary dramedy of a road film that starts off ploddingly and proceeds to only grow more so as it crawls along.

Normally that sort of potentially inspired casting, which also includes Mary Steenburgen and Harry Dean Stanton in supporting roles, should help divert attention away from any rough patches, but writer-director Michael Meredith ("Three Days of Rain") maps out a claustrophobic, dramatically inert route that allows his players precious little breathing room.

The disappointing result should ensure that this limited release sees an equally limited theatrical run on its way to the ancillary markets.

Carlton Garrett (a typically earnest Timberlake) is a mopey minor-leaguer unsure of his future who is forced to track down his legendary, professional dad, Kyle (Bridges), when his mother (Steenburgen) is about to go in for a serious operation.

Accompanied by his on-again, off-again girlfriend (Kate Mara), Carlton somehow manages to persuade his long-absent, unreliable old man to make the trek from Ohio to Texas in a red SUV that provides its passengers little opportunity to duck some previously unaddressed issues.

But that father-son relationship isn't the only thing that's strained.

Meredith, the son of gridiron great Don Meredith, obviously is working out some of his own personal stuff here, but it's at the expense of a relentlessly introspective film in which its lead characters have a habit of announcing every action and articulating every inner thought ahead of carrying them out.

Although Bridges still succeeds in giving it his A-game as Timberlake's gregarious, adage-spouting absentee dad, the performance ultimately serves to underscore just how much talent (including cameo turns by Lyle Lovett and Ted Danson) gets left behind in "The Open Road."

Opened: Friday, Aug. 28 (Anchor Bay Films)
Production: Odd Lot Entertainment, Heavy Lifting, Perfect Weekend, Aquafoxx Prods., Maximon Pictures
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Justin Timberlake, Kate Mara, Harry Dean Stanton, Lyle Lovett, Mary Steenburgen
Director-screenwriter: Michael Meredith
Executive producers: Gigi Pritzker, Deborah Del Prete, Kevin Foxx, Jonathan Gray, Heidi Levitt, Roy Scott MacFarland, Jason Hewitt, Wim Wenders
Producers: Justin Moore-Lewy, Charlie Mason, Michael Meredith, Jordan Foley, Laurie Foxx, David Schiff
Director of photography: Yaron Orbach
Production designer: Paki Smith
Music: Charlie Sexton
Costume designer: Molly Elizabeth Grundman
Editors: Suzy Elmiger, Jacob Craycroft
Rated PG-13, 90 minutes