Five Time Champion


Julius (Ryan Akin), a surly adolescent in his Holden Caulfield phase with a slightly cavemanish mien, is disappointed with the conduct of everyone he sees in his small-town Texas world. His mother (Dana Wheeler-Nicholson) is dating his ridiculous principal for financial security while running around besides; his father is absent and, worse still, rumored to be gay; his grandfather (Don Pirl) has been keeping company with an ailing ex-girlfriend; and his girlfriend, Shiley (Noell Coet), spooks him with her suspicious sexual precocity. About the only reproductive activity that Julius seems to approve of is the asexual splitting of earthworms, which he studies as an escape from the humans in his life. The infidelities are the stuff of country-and-western music, but the touchstones for Five Time Champion come from elsewhere: innocence-by-magic hour influenced by the Terrence Malick of Badlands; the hemming-and-hawing comic awkward pauses of NBC Thursday nights; and a stab at cracker-barrel regionalism, as Julius is drawn out of his solipsism by Grampaw’s galling life lessons. (“Not everything works out like in one of them science e-quations.”) Rule of thumb: If a movie about how life is messy features someone lecturing about how messy life is, that movie is not nearly messy enough to do justice to life.