It’s not that I didn’t enjoy Crooked Arrows, it has its moments! It is just a movie that I think would have worked so much better a couple of decades ago. The inspiring family film tells the story of a Native American lacrosse team and its reluctant coach, Joe Logan (Brandon Routh), who is hired by his reservation’s casino to expand the property deeper into the community. Before that can be done, he must prove himself to his father, the Tribal Chairman.
In order to prove himself, he must coach the reservation’s struggling high school lacrosse team, which competes against the exemplary prep school at the end of the season. Along the way, he and the team of misfits learn more about their culture and become underdogs in the sport leading up to the big championship against the prep school.
“You have to be passionate about the character you are playing and I realized that it was my character’s passion to help people; he just got lost along the way,” Routh tells Press Pass LA.
While that much seems true of the character, the film itself falls short of breaking away from the clichés of its predecssors. Far too often it feels like a re-telling of Mighty Ducks, Cool Runnings, The Air Up There or one of the many other underdog sports stories of the 90’s.
Still, the movie has its bright spots. “We don’t often see Native Americans in a modern setting on film anymore. This movie isn’t a period piece, and I think it not only is respectful them but will also give people not acquainted with the culture a chance to see what it is like,” explained Routh.
By using authentic Native American lacrosse players, the film adds a sense of realism that, had it not been there, would have totally ruined the movie. “The director really let the kids’ personality shine through in their roles., we let them essentially play themselves. They were awesome to work with, they were athletes not actors and that was new for me,” he notes.
To its credit, the movie does introduce the audience to the origins of the game and it all seems to be done very respectfully. I doubt most of America knew that the American Indians started lacrosse and that it is deeply engrained in their cultural identity.
One must realize that this was a labor of love for the filmmakers to bring to the screen. Writer Brad Ridell has been trying to bring the story to life for nearly 20 years. Unfortunately, that meant that he had to make some sacrifices to the script in order to do so. The result is a movie that makes no secret of who its sponsors are and can be heavy-handed in its product placement at points.
One of the main problems of having a script that is written by a committee is that the group eventually becomes more occupied with pleasing the investors than pleasing the audience. Because of that, lines like “this stadium just went native,” and other Native American related puns somehow found their way into the script.
As the first real movie about lacrosse, Crooked Arrows had the potential to be a truly great. But for me, it feels like a movie released a few decades too late. The honest truth is, had this movie been released in the mid-90s it probably would have been a blockbuster hit that children would have quoted for years. Still, it remains an enjoyable film worth a look.
Not every arrow flies straight but this one could have waited just a little bit longer before being released. Perhaps they would have hit a bullseye!
The film will be released in theaters nationally on June 1. This is a film perfect for the summer family movie-going audience.
Watch the trailer here.