It’s supposed to be 1977, and I didn’t see one pair of bell bottom pants? What a rip off.
Seventeen years after a bus accident in 1977 took the lives of the entire Rockwell basketball team, the town has remained the same. Now a “perfect” town, free from sickness, crime and death, its citizens find themselves challenged by the presence of a young man named Hawk Kodiak (Lucas Salvagno). Hawk is a former resident of a juvenile detention center, in town at the behest of Eddie Palmer (Robert Prescott, The Bourne Identity), the town cynic who wants to start another basketball team. But there’s a catch: since the accident, basketball is now illegal, and playing an official game means the town will begin to move from 1977 to the present (don’t ask me how this works). With the support of Eddie’s niece, Colby (Ella Rae Peck, The Call), and a few other residents tired of living at a standstill, a new Rockwell team is formed, and for the first time in years Rockwell and its citizens begin to change. But change is never easy; the community, along with its leaders, make a fateful decision to avoid moving into the present.
Let me be honest with you, dear reader, I missed my deadline this week. Why, you ask, with a look of concern on your sweet faces? Because frankly after my initial viewing of God Don’t Make the Laws I thought it was okay, but upon further review my opinion changed and I realized that this isn’t a very good film at all.
Why the change of heart? It’s like getting taken by a con artist, sometimes you don’t know you’ve been cheated until he’s long gone. I’m not saying that writer/director David Sabbath is a con artist, on the contrary, he had an idea and tried to make it work — “A” for effort. But under further scrutiny, what looks pretty from a distance, is actually a hot mess put together with bailing wire and duct tape.
What makes this even more disappointing is God Don’t Make the Laws begins with a pretty promising opening. We see our heroine, Colby Palmer, on the run from sinister looking men in dark suits. There’s a tense car chase through the streets of an unknown town, and after Colby thinks she’s given them the slip, they catch up to her at a local diner where our story really begins. Cool, great, looks like fun, but then the wheels come off almost all at once.
First, who these men are and what they want is never made clear; you can speculate, but trying to tie the pieces together will make your head ache. Paul Sorvino has a small role as Lewis, a mysterious stranger who is working with the dark suited men, and claims he’s been looking for the ‘legend’ that is Colby Palmer for quite some time. But he is thoroughly underutilized by writer/director David Sabbath, who turns the veteran actor into some kind of sinister therapist to Colby, as she recounts the tale of Rockwell: A town trapped in time.
Thus God Don’t Make the Laws begins the flip flop from Colby and Lewis, to Rockwell and a young stranger named Hawk Kodiak (no, I did not make that name up), who comes to town and tries to shake things up. When Hawk arrives there’s the potential that the film might pull itself out of its self-imposed fog, but the cloudiness continues. We’re told that Hawk is a young man without a past. When he a small child, he showed up on the doorsteps of a juvenile detention facility with no name and no ID and lived there until he made his trek to the village of Rockwell. But why did he go there of all places? We may need a forensic anthropologist to tell us why, because Sabbath doesn’t — and sometimes a girl just wants answers. This kind of ambiguity can work in certain situations, but here it doesn’t; there are far too many questions and very few logical answers.
The whole premise of God Don’t Make the Laws is hard to swallow; how and why a town remains in 1977 while the world around it continues on its path into the future is never explained. And I had to laugh when one of the characters — with a serious expression, mind you — tells Hawk that just having a basketball can get ya thrown into the hoosgow. In fact the basketball is such a dangerous object, that the kids of Rockwell have been prevented from even knowing what it is. These Mensa candidates can’t differentiate a basketball from a cantaloupe. They’re like idiot savants when they see one. “What’s that sheriff?” “Basketball, is that a game?” Come on! Basketball was around before 1977, and it’s the reason the town has stood still for all these years! Okay okay, I’ll calm down, let’s think this through. Maybe there’s some giant force field around the town blocking out all comings and goings, except one character makes mention of outsiders frequently driving through the town, leaving us with yet another shaky plot point.
This brings us to the main reason God Don’t Make the Laws doesn’t work: the writing. When you have a story that depends on a huge suspension of disbelief, the writing has to be spot on — here it’s anything but. The story flows poorly, and it feels like two distinctly different movies: Colby and Lewis is one film, while Colby and Hawk are the other. The characters aren’t fully formed, especially Colby and Hawk, who are supposed to be romantically linked, but the two have practically no chemistry and their supposedly forbidden love affair left me cold.
Presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, nothing is wrong with the clarity of the picture; it is the clearness of the script that I take umbrage with. The Dolby 5.1 audio has some issues, mainly with a soundtrack that that is far too loud and intrusive, not to mention just plain awful. It seems as if Sabbath realized half way through editing that he needed to lower the music levels, because suddenly in the last half of the film the music is much more discreet — still awful though.
God Don’t Make the Laws sputters the whole way through, it’s an unbelievable premise made even more so by lackluster writing and wooden performances. Just steer clear of it, but if you must get all ’70s nostalgic on me watch Saturday Night Fever instead.
God didn’t make me say this film is Guilty; I came up with it all on my own.
God Don’t Make the Laws (DVD)
2013, Green Apple Entertainment, 86 minutes, NR (2013)
VIDEO: 1.78:1 AUDIO: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English) SUBTITLES: None
EXTRAS: Trailer ACCOMPLICES: IMDB