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Review

Muddled 'Bravetown' abounds in the maudlin

'Bravetown' fails to rise above cliches on grieving, growing up and war

In "Bravetown," a muddled collection of clichés about grieving, growing up and dealing with the repercussions of war, a hotshot New York teen with an arrest record is transplanted to North Dakota. Through court-ordered therapy sessions, romance with a classmate and involvement with the high school's competitive dance team, he gets in touch with his repressed emotions and those of the town itself, a place where joining the military feels like many kids' only option, and where the cemetery is bedecked with American flags marking the graves of fallen soldiers.

Lucas Till (Havoc in the "X-Men" franchise) plays turntable prodigy Josh, who takes his DJ equipment with him to the hinterland. In a bizarre collusion between the judge and his mother (Maria Bello), his latest infraction has sent him not to prison but to his father (Tom Everett Scott), essentially a stranger. The term "white privilege" comes to mind, but that's another story.

Josh's mixing prowess instantly turns the uninspired dance team into super-talents on the fast track to state championship. But his relationship with team leader Mary (Kherington Payne) stalls over her unwillingness to discuss her war-casualty brother. That silence puts her and her meds-addled mother (Laura Dern, compelling) on par with the rest of the town. Tying it all together, eventually, is Josh's counselor (Josh Duhamel), an Iraq veteran who's all too obviously guarding a secret.

First-time director Daniel Duran, working from a screenplay by Oscar Torres that abounds in the maudlin and risible, isn't able to lift the ham-handed material to a place where it might ring true.

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'Bravetown'

MPAA rating: R for language, drug use, brief sexuality.

Running time: 1 hour, 53 minutes.

Playing: Arena Cinema, Hollywood. Also on VOD.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
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