Cowboy-hatted bruiser Toby Keith may be best known as the guy who volunteered to put a boot up Osama's ass and string up every varmint in Texas. But rumor around Nashville has it that his politics are a lot more complex -- and as cornball and CMT-contrived as his first starring vehicle is, it may be the only mainstream American movie since the Iraq War started (unless you count Joe Dante's Homecoming) to depict the conflict purely in terms of coffins, folded flags, and grieving families. Keith plays a downhill honky-tonker brought back to his Kentucky hometown by a deadly training accident; the tragedy brings him face-to-face with his former flame, TV reporter Kelly Preston, and the teenage daughter (Lindsay Haun) he never met. On the big screen, director Steven Goldmann's movie plays exactly like projected TV, raising and wrapping up a season's worth of conflicts (including abortion and attempted rape) between commercial breaks; as Preston's hard-ass dad, a funereal Burt Reynolds gets the movie's worst scenes and makes them worse. Keith, however, has a likably abashed big-lug presence. Laugh all you want, but name another current movie that berates the powers that be, even in passing, for giving U.S. troops nothing but "fancy funerals." Even red states get the blues.
Steven GoldmannToby Keith, Kelly Preston, Lindsey Haun, Burt Reynolds, Willie Nelson, Tess Harper, Josh Henderson, Brian Durkin, Johanna Braddy, Daniel NewmanCherie Bennett, Jeff GottesfeldDonald Zuckerman, Sara RisherParamount Pictures