MOVIE REVIEW : ‘Pure Country’: Creaky and Corny : Country singer George Strait makes his acting debut in this overfamiliar, uninvolving film.
In “Pure Country,” country singing star George Strait seems so laid-back that at times he seems laid out. Singers often make good actors, but Strait’s debut performance doesn’t measure up to his heartfelt, down-home warbling. It doesn’t matter much: “Pure Country” (citywide) is pure corn.
The whole shebang is so achingly familiar that, after a while, you almost look forward to Strait’s engagingly unengaging presence. Except for his performance numbers, he doesn’t seem to be taking anything about the movie terribly seriously, which is the right approach.
Strait is “playing” Dusty, a country star who yearns to return to his North Texas roots. His shows have become so full of smoke and special effects and bombast that, when he unexpectedly drops out of his tour, a lip-syncing replacement (Kyle Chandler) is brought in by his manager (Lesley Ann Warren) and the cheering audience never even catches on.
Dusty’s odyssey takes in his kindly crochety grandmother (Molly McClure) and a beautiful, free-spirited barrel racer, Harley (Isabel Glasser), who is a credit to her jeans. She and her brothers are competing in rodeos to save the family ranch, and Dusty, incognito, signs on for duty. (You’d think these people would recognize a country star of such dazzling renown, but let it pass.)
The plot mechanisms are so creaky in “Pure Country,” which was directed by Christopher Cain and scripted by Rex McGee, that at times it almost plays like a silent film (except for the Strait-laced soundtrack). The corn is presented without smirk: There’s nothing camp about the way the filmmakers play out the weepiness and uplift. This approach at least keys into the soul of country music, which is at its best (and worst) when it’s being shamelessly heartfelt.
“Pure Country” (rated PG for mild violence, sensuality and language) is so lulling in its down-home cliches, and so chaste in its romance, that it seems to have been made in a time warp.
But it’s too clunky to be offensive. When Strait smiles his wan, wide smile you can hear hearts breaking up and down the audience.
George Strait: Dusty Wyatt Chandler
Lesley Ann Warren: Lula Rogers
Isabel Glasser: Harley Tucker
A Warner Bros. release of a Jerry Weintraub production. Director Christopher Cain. Producer Jerry Weintraub. Executive producer R.J. Louis. Screenplay by Rex McGee. Cinematographer Richard Bowen. Editor Jack Hofstra. Costumes James M. George. Music George Strait. Production design Jeffrey Howard. Running time: 1 hour, 48 minutes.
MPAA-rated PG (some mild violence, sensuality and language).