Kodachrome isn’t a bad movie, it just never for a moment feels like a real one: A road-trip dramedy so schematic and loaded for emotional bear it feels like it was generated by a Sundance screenwriting app.
Matt (Jason Sudeikis) is a record-label executive whose life is on steep downward slide; he’s divorced, flailing at work, and about to be unemployed unless he can pull off One Last Job, a band he knows he has almost no chance of signing. Then he gets a visit from a beautiful young woman (Elizabeth Olsen), a sort of nurse-slash-personal-caretaker to his estranged father, Ben (Ed Harris), a man who was too busy being a globe-trotting photojournalist for the last few decades to bother parenting his son.
Ben is dying, she says, and he wants them all to take one final drive to Kansas — he’s too weak to fly — where the last rolls of Kodachrome film are being developed before the format is phased out entirely. Will Matt go along, even though he claims to hate his dad? Does a bear play Simon & Garfunkel in the woods?
Blame it on Zach Braff, maybe, that Kodachrome feels so clumsily familiar. He’s not actually involved, according to any credits on IMDB, but the ghost of Garden State floats over everything here: The thoughtful white guy in the midst of some sort of early-midlife crisis; the distant or dysfunctional parent; the dream girl, give or take a manic amount of pixie; the indie-rock soundtrack that trails behind everything like tin cans on the red convertible the trio takes cross country.
It’s hard to fault the actors. Sudeikis is comfortably himself, and Harris, as usual, is great, though he’s asked to play Ben almost entirely as either a noxiously unfiltered ass or a sort of koan-spouting sage. Olsen (her character’s name is — what else? — Zooey) brings an easy naturalism her underwritten role doesn’t really deserve.
Except everything they do is hampered by the script, adapted by Jonathan Tropper from a 2010 New York Times article, which tries too hard at nearly every turn to lead viewers to the deep-feelings trough and make them drink. Kodachrome has the kernel of a truer, more original story somewhere in it but no shades of subtlety or revelation; just primary colors, painted wide. C+