The Newton Boys Movie Review

Soon after we walked into the theater on opening night of The Newton Boys, I feared we had made a mistake. It seemed that the Leonardo's fan club had gotten lost, and instead of marching like lemmings into another screening of Titanic, these pre-ten girls had packed themselves into our cozy theater. The cries of "Oh baby" as soon as Matthew McConaughey appeared on screen, however, made me realize that they were simply looking for another cute young guy (or four) to gawk at.

The four young guys that our lovable preteens came to gawk at are McConaughey, Ethan Hawke, Skeet Ulrich, and Vincent D'Onofrio as Willis, Jess, Joe, and Dock Newton respectively. The Newton boys are you're stereotypical cowboys turned bank robbers who have decided that a home on the range isn't enough for them.

Willis leads his brothers into the outlaw business when he can't seem to find enough respect or success in society after he gets out of a penitentiary serving time for a crime he apparently did not commit. This thin excuse for turning to a life of crime also convinces Willis's brothers to follow him into the business.

If this setup sounds like you have seen it before, that is probably because you have. From the opening credits, modeled after title cards from early silent films and antique portraits, the film smells distinctly of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. In fact, at times Linklater seems to be shamelessly ripping off Butch Cassidy right down to the fiddle and banjo ridden score.

Although the movie sets itself up as just another 90's remake, with the Hollywood philosophy that every generation needs to remake classic films almost as good as the originals, it ultimately turns into something more. Unlike its prototype that ends with a freeze-frame on the impending early demise of Butch and Sundance, the last half of The Newton Boys dwells on the almost unheard of troubles of outlaws trying to get out of the game (although we have seen it in many Mafia films.)

It is at this point that we realize this film is a true story. (This is reaffirmed during the credits where we see interview footage of Willis and Joe Newton describing much of the movie we just saw.)

The fact that this story contains very little that we haven't already seen on the screen is of little consequence when we realize that this biographical picture imitating a similar biography from 30 years past is infinitely more interesting than the average cookbook action picture imitating whatever made money the year before. Come to think of it, I don't mind the banjos as long as they're not ripping off the soundtrack from Titanic, or should I say Braveheart?

The Newton Boys is the latest from Richard Linklater, acclaimed independent director of Slacker and Dazed and Confused. This outing is a big step up for Linklater though, with a $27 million budget which exceeds total expenditures on his first four films combined. But don't sweat for Linklater, Leonardo's fan club seems willing to fork over the price of a ticket for any movie with the word "boys" in the title.

The smelliest man in show business with the coldest co-star around.


Comments

The Newton Boys Rating

" Good "

Rating: PG-13, 1998

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