If you know me, you know I really try to go into every movie with a blank slate. Obviously, there are times where I can’t help it and there is a certain “bar” that has been set. When I watched the trailer for Priceless (2016) a few days ago, a splinter in the back of my head told me this wasn’t going to be a movie for me. However, the blog goes on and I made the choice to see this movie and no one stopped me. I knew I was in for a ride when I showed up and was literally the only person in the movie theater. I wish I had somebody with me for the same reason I went to see Max Steel (2016) with Dan last week: To be able to talk openly in an empty theater to make a 90 minute movie not feel like three hours.
Priceless is the first feature directed by an unknown director named Ben Smallbone who cast his brother, Joel, as James – a stereotypical widow/loner/man over the edge with a 2016 haircut trying to do right by his daughter by smuggling immigrants across the U.S. border. Things are going somewhat well until one day he decides to fall in love with one of the immigrants before she and her sister are sold into sex trafficking by Hoyt, from True Blood, who somehow manages to trade in his southern accent from True Blood for a way less convincing accent. Then the remaining hour of the movie (which felt like several) follows James as he tries to make the excuse that God has a divine plan for everyone and you cannot put a price tag on human worth, because everyone is… Priceless.
Coming of age tales aren’t a bad thing at all. My senior capstone was a coming of age tale and I think even I had a more convincing main character to get behind than this James guy. Literally, I felt like the movie was more concerned with making sure his hair looked perfect for every shot rather than making sure Smallbone, the actor, felt comfortable in the role. That being said, I’m not sure any actor really could have done justice to any of these shallow and horribly written characters. Each person plays a more of a stereotype than any real person and I found myself laughing more than I probably should about immigrants being sold into sex slavery. The strongest presence in the entire film was David Koechner; but even his lines were so forced you could see the anxiety in his face with every delivery. It’s not good storytelling when you need a supporting character to spell out every decision the main character has to make rather than influence their decision.
Everything about the movie feels staged, right down to the climax in a playground where the parallels of father/daughter relationships coincidentally chime in to remind audiences that even though the main character “sacrificed” his estranged relationship with his daughter, at the end of the day it was his plan the whole time to be reunited with her.The writing is predictable, and by the final monologue which reminds everyone why they just forced themselves through this whole ordeal, I was checking my Fantasy roster to make sure no one was injured before Monday Night Football. For a movie that came out only a week ago, I understand why it only had one showing today.