Review: “Touchback” is an inspiring drama that will make you smile

April 20th, 2012 at 12:01 am by under Entertainment

“Touchback” is an inspiring, thought provoking drama, that will bring a smile to your face.

This is a movie that is packed with themes of small town – small town setting, small town values, small town story – not too big in scope… or budget.

In a blender, mix: “Its A Wonderful Life”, “Back to the Future”, “Mr. Destiny”, “Field of Dreams”, “Miracle”, and “Hoosiers”…  take away the bigger budgets (*see below) of most of those movies and you get “Touchback”.

"Touchback" poster courtesy Anchor Bay Films

(My spoiler-free review)

In 1991, as the story goes, Ohio’s “Mr. Football” Scott Murphy helped Coldwater, Ohio win the state championship over 5-time champs Cuyahoga, but 20 years later, he’s a farmer facing harvest troubles, money troubles, and more pressure than winning a football game… he wants nothing more than to just play football again.

And he gets that chance when he wakes up 20 years in the past… back in high school.

While it taps into those high school emotions of future dreams, young love,  awkwardness, and friendships – “Touchback” does so without being overly dramatic… or overly comedic… and not too cliche.   Think of a more serious version of “Back to the Future” set in the sports world of “Miracle” or “Hoosiers”.

“Touchback” is also an inspirational/family movie without being preachy.  It
strikes a balance between cute and dramatic with elements of comedic relief throughout.

Director/writer Don Handfield’s story is well scripted, the characters are well developed, and the plot is well conceived and thought out, it doesn’t tale any shortcuts or let the audience off easy.

Our main character ‘Scott Murphy’, played by Brian Presley does so with layers of complication that lend credibility to the story and the accessibility of the character.  Presley has the blue collar, rugged, unassuming thing going for him that makes him easy to root for during the movie.

Brian Presley scene from "Touchback" courtesy Anchor Bay Films

Melanie Lynskey in a dramatic scene from "Touchback" courtesy Anchor Bay Films

Marc Blucas and Brian Presley discuss the big game in a scene from "Touchback" courtesy Anchor Bay Films

Christine Lahti and Brian Presley in an important scene from "Touchback" courtesy Anchor Bay Films

Kurt Russell discusses strategy with Brian Presley in a scene from "Touchback" courtesy Anchor Bay Films








The filmmakers have surrounded Presley with a solid supporting cast: Melanie Lynskey plays his wife ‘Macy’ – who has an inherent nice, sweet, quiet, supportive, girl-next-door quality about her that will connect female audiences.  His loyal best friend ‘Chris’ – Marc Blucas – plays it right down the middle as the guy who had the same goals as Scott, except he made it.  But this character is not the stereotypical jock who left his hometown and friends in the rear view mirror – he plays it so well, its hard not to like him.  Scott’s mom – Christine Lahti – is perfect as the hard working single mom who puts her son ahead of herself.  Kurt Russell is everything you’d expect from a veteran actor – solid and convincing as ‘Coach Hand’, the coach and father figure that impacts Scott’s life.

The movie looks good – with solid production values: its well shot, well lit, with good camera tricks and movements to maximize the smaller $5 million budget.  The wardrobe and sets and everything looks lived in: worn denim, Scott’s old leg brace and rusty Chevy truck… by comparison, the crisp football jerseys and clean hallways of the high school when we go back in time lend to the intentional themes of old vs. new.  The scenery and look of Coopersville, Michigan made it the perfect fit for the movie.

The renaming of signs adds to the authentic look, but it was nice that the “Pal’s Diner” name was kept and abbreviated both in words and visuals as the “town diner”.

On the field, most of the football plays looked realistic, some felt staged or obvious that we weren’t watching teens – these were a lot of 20 and 30-somethings dressed in high school uniforms.  We also get three motivational pep talks from ‘Coach Hand’ (Russell) to get us ready for the David vs. Goliath match-up.

We get themes of working hard and family in this small blue collar town… where football isn’t just king, its the only thing.  Scott also faces a choice between between his field of soybeans and field of football dreams.  Another theme is time: running out of time, not enough time, wasted time. Someone should count the number of times we see references to time: clocks, watches, or calendars.  Like other good time travel movies, we start to see some elements replayed from the beginning of the movie, as we watch to see how events are impacted by the main character’s decisions.

While the aging process for Russell looked okay, accepting Presley and Blucas as teenagers was a little difficult.  I understand that its very difficult to find actors with the experience – both athletically and as actors – so I suspended belief an accepted it, but it was a bit of a stretch.  Maybe fewer close-ups or different framing or wearing coats and sweatshirts could have hid their “grown up man in boys clothing look”.  While I’ve already mentioned some of the cast already, the rest were not great – just average – nothing special, not distracting, but also not memorable.


“Touchback” is an inspiring drama that will make you smile and West Michigan, especially Coopersville, proud… I give it 7.0 out of 10.

*Budgets for “Touchback” inspired/comprable movies:
“Its A Wonderful Life” ($37 million *adjusted for inflation)
“Miracle” ($28 million)
“Mr. Destiny” ($20 million)
“Back to the Future” ($19 million)
“Field of Dreams” ($15 million)
“Hoosiers” ($6 million)
“Touchback” ($5 million)

Kurt Russell and Brian Presley in a scene from "Touchback" courtesy Anchor Bay Films


(2012) (rated: PG-13 for some mature thematic elements)
(2 hrs, 2 min)

Starring: Brian Presley, Kurt Russell, Melanie Lynskey, Mark Blucas, Christine Lahti

Director/Writer: Don Handfield

Genre: Drama/Fantasy/Sports

The Plot: At the brink of financial disaster, a former football star wakes up in the past, reliving the events that led up to his career-ending, life-altering injury. He is forced to choose between his simple life and the path to fame and fortune.

So what did you think?  Please post a comment!

“Touchback” poster and photo courtesy Anchor Bay Films

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