Directed by: Matthew Dean Russell
Starring: Lucas Black, Robert Duvall, Deborah Ann Woll, Brian Geraghty, Melissa Leo
Do you like your sports movies with a side of proselytizing? Do you like when your Christianity peddles golf clubs and is presented by The Golf Channel? If you answered yes, then Seven Days in Utopia is the movie for you. First, I have to offer the usual disclaimer for whenever we review one of these overtly Christian films, which is that it’s not being panned because its a Christian film. No, it’s getting this reaction from me because it’s a boring, hokey movie. But even that I could come to grips with. What makes Seven Days all the more egregious—and borderline offensive—is how the movie attempts to use its faith-based message as a means of making a quick buck in the most blatant of fashions.
Based on David L. Cook’s book Golf’s Sacred Journey: Seven Days in Utopia (a good sign of how amateurish this production is going to be is when the opening credits leave out the possessive apostrophe from the book’s title), the film is about Luke (Lucas Black), a pro golfer with daddy issues. When we meet Luke, he’s just stormed out of a tournament after melting down on the final hole and getting into a tiff with his father (Joseph Lyle Taylor, Summer of Sam). After taking off down Texas back roads, Luke nearly runs over a cow, but instead ends up wrecking his car and finding himself in the small town of Utopia. Here, he meets Johnny (Robert Duvall), an old cowboy and one-time golf pro who soon promises to fix Luke’s golf game if he promises to stay in Utopia for seven days.
Here, Johnny becomes the good ol’ boy version of Mr. Miyagi, teaching Luke about golf in unorthodox fashions, like making him paint pictures or nearly killing him in a plane crash (no, really). All of this, of course, is so Luke can learn that Jesus—not golf—is what’s important. The message is heavy handed, while the story that it’s wrapped within is far too corny and pat to be believable. By itself, Seven Days in Utopia should be perfectly forgettable, and in the same class as all the other forgotten faith-based films that have come and gone over the years.
But it’s not. Instead, the film’s in embarrassingly bad taste, since—underneath its Christian message—the movie really just works as one big advertisement. Seven Days has some of the most grotesque displays of crass product placement I’ve ever been witness to. It’s not obvious at first, beyond the Callaway Golf hat Luke wears throughout the movie. But then later, Johnny decides to present Luke with some new-fangled putter that’s supposed to be the future of golf. And of course, dear old dad, as a sign of reconciliation, buys Lukes a brand new Callaway driver. But things get truly distasteful where all these slightly hidden sales pitches end up. The film ends on a cliffhanger, then gives you a URL to a site that’s not only promoting Cook’s sequel to Golf’s Sacred Journey, but which also links to a store that features all types of Callaway Golf goodies. I have no problem with anyone making money on their movie. Sell all the books and shirts and Happy Meals you want. But when you’ve completely molded and abbreviated your film in order to make a quick buck and get traffic to your e-store—all under the auspices of preaching the Good Word—then you’re doing nothing more than insulting your audience. Rated G.