It's the cliché that keeps on giving: Whenever urbanites arrive at some sort of emotional or spiritual crisis, it's time to retreat to their quaint little hometowns, where the locals' simple decency will cure whatever ails them. Sated after a bellyful of casseroles and homespun wisdom, they get back in touch with their roots and can carry on with their lives, whether that means sticking around for eternity or merely chucking their Blackberries in the lake. Country Music Television's answer to Elizabethtown, Broken Bridges turns a time of mourning into a time for soul-searching and tearful reconciliation. But while Elizabethtown was a train wreck, it at least had the courtesy to fail spectacularly, with inspired sequences and embarrassing sequences all bearing the mark of a strong, unmistakably personal point of view. Broken Bridges belongs on television—and not even network television at that—where its lackadaisical pacing and endless heart-to-hearts will bore a more receptive audience.
Making a reasonably creditable leap from flag-waving country singer to big-screen star, Toby Keith gives a relaxed performance as a washed-up, alcoholic country icon who comes back to small-town Tennessee after his younger brother dies in a military training accident. Kelly Preston plays Keith's former high-school sweetheart, whose brother also died in the accident, prompting her to come home for the first time in the 18 years since her mildly rebellious daughter (Lindsey Haun) was born. Naturally, both characters left some loose ends untied, particularly with each other, since Keith chose to pursue his career rather than take off with Preston and her unborn child. Preston also has fences to mend with hardheaded father Burt Reynolds, who wouldn't crack a smile under court order.
Broken Bridges is one of those movies where most scenes start with a character staring out over a pond, sitting on a porch, or looking at an old photograph, just waiting to reminisce with whoever sidles up next to them. With so many relationships that need closure—between Preston and Keith, Preston and Reynolds, Keith and the townsfolk, Keith and the daughter he never knew—there's really no time for anything else. Except, of course, for the obligatory montages set to contemporary country music. And even those are padded out needlessly: Midway through a car trip from Miami to Tennessee, there's an insert shot of Preston fumbling with a roadmap. Just stay on I-75!