A family friendly Gran Torino – The Boat Builder (DVD Review)

Rating:

Stop me if you’ve heard this before. A crotchety old man, a widower, becomes a recluse until some youngster, rejected by their peers, befriends them and, over the course of 90 minutes, helps them to live their life. We’ve seen it in films such as Finding Forrester (2000), Gran Torino (2008), or Up (2009); the Old/Young Buddy movie. It reaches a point where the characters and their arcs have become clichéd and Two Dimensional. We know the rhythm of these films.

The Boat Builder (2015) joins the ranks of the Generational Buddy Film, out now on DVD from Simple Media.

On the Pacific coast, the elderly Abner (Christopher Lloyd) goes about his days repairing an old boat. Angry at the world following the death of his wife and wanting only to be left alone, his only contact is with his daughter Katherine (Jane Kaczmarek) and a gang of no good street kids that torment him. One day all this is turned on its head when he finds Rick (Tekola Cornetet), hiding from the bullies on his property. Over time the two bond through their shared experiences of loss, Abner’s wife and Rick’s mother, and their mutual alienation by the town’s people. Taking the young Rick under his wing, the pair fixes up Abner’s boat with the hope to escape from their problems. But as the project nears its completion threats start to rise; the bullies won’t leave Abner nor Rick alone and those closest to the pair of them will go to great lengths to keep them both safe.

It is formulaic. Right of the bat, it hits every one of the tropes we’ve come to expect from films like this. The growth of the characters, tests of the friendship, threats from outside, conclusion. It follows each beat like it’s a step on the Hero’s Journey. Not only that, it leaves plot threads dangling in mid-air. It’s implied at the start that Abner has the early onset of dementia and has stopped taking his pills, only this is never brought up or mentioned again throughout the rest of the film. There are flashbacks to Rick’s time at an orphanage along with the vicious bullying he went through but this comes and goes like a ship in the night. The bratty cousins Rick lives with resent him for no good reason while the preteen street gang seem to act with impunity.

Despite all that it’s still quite a good movie. Not brilliant but still worth a watch.

It feels like it’s from the early Nineties. There is an innocence to it that is rare these days. A soft colour palette that enriches the sea vistas but it’s not just that which sells it. Lloyd is brilliant to watch as Abner. He gets to act with more range than in some previous films and is not there for simple comic relief. Gruff but with a gentle side, the friendship with Rick feels organic, growing naturally rather than forced together like two mismatched Lego blocks.

The DVD is short on extras, coming only with a Set-Up and Scene Select menu.

A harmless family drama, you won’t go mad to watch it but you will still enjoy the experience.

Dir: Arnold Grossman
Scr: Arnold Grossman
Cast: Christopher Lloyd, Jane Kaczmarek, Tekola Cornetet
Prd: Richard J. Bosner
DOP: Phillip Briggs
Music: Giona Ostinelli
Country: USA
Runtime: 88 minutes

The Boat Builder is available on DVD now.