By Steve Greene | Criticwire August 22, 2013 at 3:12PM
More and more films premiere on Video on Demand -- if they don't simply bypass a theatrical release altogether. Because VOD reviews are often scarce and hard to find, Criticwire created VODetails, a recurring column to help you figure out whether a new VOD release is worth your hard-earned dollar. This time we're looking at "Jayne Mansfield's Car," a directorial return for Billy Bob Thornton -- not a documentary about a voracious collector of "Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?" memorabilia.
Director: Billy Bob Thornton
Cast: Kevin Bacon, Ray Stevenson, Robert Patrick, John Hurt, Shawnee Smith, Katherine LaNasa, Robert Duvall
Criticwire Average: C+ (19 critics)
Official Synopsis: "Academy Award® winner Billy Bob Thornton stars—along with Oscar® winner Robert Duvall, two-time Oscar® nominee John Hurt and Golden Globe winner Kevin Bacon—in this story of fathers and sons, wars and peace, and the turbulent time that changed America forever. It's 1969 in a small Alabama town, and the death of a quirky clan's long-estranged wife and mother brings together two very different families for the funeral. But do the scars of the past hide differences that will tear them apart or expose truths that could lead to the most unexpected collisions of all?"
"Even at moments meant to convey sensitive connections or emotional wisdom, the dialogue feels deliriously strained, everyone acting overly affected and for absolutely nought."
"A fine cast can only do so much with the script’s pileup of generational conflict and long-winded introspection, resulting in a willfully out-of-step picture that will struggle to connect with an audience."
"Relationships are established, strained, mended, and occasionally broken, but the film rarely over-sentimentalizes the material or strays into melodrama."
"Thornton never quite manages to get the balance between humour and sentiment quite right and all too often cheap jokes are proceeded by emotionally heightened scenes intended to evoke a strong heartfelt reaction from the audience."
"What starts out as an absurd farce of family dysfunction soon matures into a bittersweet tale of generational conflict and forgiveness."
"The performances are unshowily enjoyable...It is not a panacea for all the film's flaws, but the actors' conviction elevates, or at least distracts from the insubstantial plotting and occasionally clunky dialogue."
"The movie stays afloat mainly due to its game cast, particularly Duvall and Thornton himself, both playing grumpy men haunted by their combat histories and unable to move on with their lives. Spacey and O'Connor make the best of underwritten parts, but can never transcend the scenario's generally static quality."
"Despite some awkward moments...Thornton's scrupulous direction and obvious empathy with his actors ensures we never lose the thread and events remain properly engrossing."
"Neither the Brits nor the Americans convey a sense of being part of the same family given that Thornton as director fails to make the ensemble knit together in a convincing way."
"Jayne Mansfield's Car" is now available on VOD and digital and will be released in theaters on September 13th.