Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Available beginning February 21st, 2012
Starring: “Coach” Benjamin Wade, Danielle DiLorenzo, Vanessa Leinani
Directed by Nathan Pope (feature film debut)
The new film 180 won’t be found in local movie theaters. Largely, it is a low-budget independent film that has drawn much attention due to the film’s stars, namely “Coach” Ben Wade and Danielle DiLorenzo. If these names mean nothing to you, it's probably because you’ve never seen the CBS reality-competition show, Survivor. If you are a fan of Survivor or of Coach and/or Danielle, at the very least, you’re probably curious at the thought of these reality stars appearing in a film as dramatic actors. So does it work? Is casting former reality stars in a real movie as bad of an idea as it may already sound?
Coach is the main star of 180, appearing in nearly every scene. His character is Gavin Larson, a musician and front-man of The Zebras, who are living the rock and roll dream. Gavin is the only one who doesn’t get on a plane that results in the death of the entire band. As you could imagine, this tragedy sends Gavin down a dark path towards humility, addiction, depression, and eventually redemption.
We meet Gavin as he is still down and out, but determined to bounce back. The former rock-God tries to enlist the help of several people he has screwed over during his earlier days, to pull together a new band that will return him to the top. Danielle DiLorenzo plays his former manager and ex-girlfriend, Tuesday, who Gavin tries to convince that he’s on the straight and narrow. Tuesday is a bit reluctant to get involved with Gavin professionally or personally, lest she make the same mistake twice.
The core premise of 180 is the theme of redemption, and trying not to repeat past mistakes. These themes should be familiar to Coach from his most recent appearance on Survivor: South Pacific (he also appeared in the Tocantins, and Heroes vs. Villains editions).
As a huge fan of Survivor, having seen every single episode, and having covered the show for the past 3 years professionally, I must say that there was a guilty sense of pleasure watching Coach and Danielle star in a movie. Despite both of them being cast as villains on Heroes vs. Villains, they are both likable personalities and people, with Coach's TV persona being a bigger-than-life ham with a heart of gold. His “Dragon-Slayer” persona on Survivor made him fascinating to watch, and made you often ponder whether or not he was for real (every sign pointing to the fact that he is a genuine dude, making him all the more interesting). Then there is Danielle, a natural beauty with her unmistakable Boston accent. She’s a charismatic young woman meant to be in front of a camera.
Having said all that, the film itself is sadly a cheese-tastic disaster. The actual premise of the film is an interesting one, but despite the serious plane crash and themes of addiction and recovery, 180 is delivered as cornball comedy. The clashing tones create a mess of everything. Most of it is painfully unfunny. From the stilted dialogue to the gaggle of amateur actors, it practically spews inexperience from every frame. Still, I believe the film may be worth a look for Survivor fans like myself, who get excited at the idea of following their favorite Survivors’ every move.
Perhaps most unfortunate of all, Coach’s Gavin Larson character is infinitely less-interesting than real-life Coach. I think some people are just better suited as reality-stars, because if there was a role that Coach was born to play it should have been this one. And Danielle? She may have shown the most promise of all the actors in 180, but wasn’t given too much to work with, and only has a handful of scenes.
Fans of Survivor should also be interested to hear that the film includes a love scene between Coach and Danielle. It is done tastefully, but the whole time you are fully aware that it is Danielle and Coach making out, not Gavin and Tuesday.
If the film was really working as a film, we wouldn’t see reality stars in these scenes, we would see characters.
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