And They're Off: Film Review

The mock-doc approach is more stale than usual in TV vet Rob Schiller's racetrack comedy.

Rob Schiller's mocumentary follows a horse trainer and jockey, played by Sean Astin and Cheri Oteri, who can't seem to boot home a winner.

NEW YORK — A straightforward attempt to mine Christopher Guest-style humor out of a sad-sack horseracing tale, Rob Schiller's And They're Off finds Sean Astin facing overwhelming odds with an absolute unwillingness to quit. Astin's endearingly game performance isn't enough to carry the film, which won't likely see a second week in theaters. His name along with co-star Cheri Oteri may help on VOD.

Astin plays Dusty, a trainer whose yearning to win far outstrips his (or his horses') talents. Girlfriend Dee (Oteri, playing one high-strung note throughout), who's also his jockey, has left him -- perhaps just as well, since the three horses they work are being taken from him piecemeal by other trainers.

PHOTOS: Behind the Scenes: And They're Off!

A doc crew follows Dusty, intending to pair his story with one of, to put it delicately, a more successful horseman. (Real-world racing figures pop up here, uneventfully.) But Dusty's dignity in failure sustains him until a quartet of clueless investors hires him to train an animal they've bought named, er, Caveat.

Alan Grossbard's screenplay combs through the Guest playbook of grand delusions and quirky romantic pairings, but has a terrible time finding a laugh or narrative momentum. Astin and Martin Mull (who plays Dusty's father) score once or twice, but if this cast is capable of the kind of improvised brilliance a Guffman ensemble offers, Schiller's not the man to coax it out them.

Opened: October 28 (Kinobild Releasing)
Production Company: Scrambled Eggs Productions
Cast: Sean Astin, Cheri Oteri, Mark Moses, Gigi Rice, Peter Jacobson, Mo Collins, James "Lil JJ" Lewis, Martin Mull
Director: Rob Schiller
Screenwriter: Alan Grossbard
Producers: Howard Bolter, Alan Grossbard, Pamela Fryman
Director of photography: Ulf Soderqvist
Production designer: Alexa Roman

Music: Larry Brown
Costume designer: Mark Avery
Editor: Stephen R. Myers
Rated PG-13, 90 minutes