The art of travel, according to Movie Habit’s Matt Anderson, is to “revel in not knowing where the Hell you are and just go from there.” This is also the thesis of Tom Whelan and Brian LaBelle’s film, The Art of Travel.
It’s Connor, not Francis
The pre-trip Connor Layne (Christopher Kennedy Masterson) embodies P.J. O’Rourke’s line from Holidays in Hell, “earnestness is just stupidity sent to college.”
Connor begins as a stupid boy in love about to marry his high school sweetheart, head to Berkeley and to live happily ever after. But when his best laid wedding plans fall to the wayside, Connor sloughs off suburbia for Nicaragua and beyond, and the hero’s journey begins.
Connor simultaneously meets his mentor and receives his call to adventure when Christopher (Johnny Messner) and Darlene Loren (Brooke Burns) walk into a Panama bar. The couple invites him to trek the Darien Gap bordering Central and South America. When Connor eventually accepts, he crosses what story consultant Christopher Vogler calls, “the first threshold,” and the adventure begins.
Embracing and learning from the new resonate throughout this movie. “Connor” makes us forget that we watched Masterson grow up as “Francis” on Malcolm in the Middle and we embrace “Roadkill.” He and the other adventurers: One Ball (James Duval), Two-Dogs (Jake Muxworthy), Bullet (Shalim Ortiz a.k.a, Alejandro, Heroes Season 2) and Anna (Angelika Baran) arrive at new epiphanies about life while trekking through the jungles of Colombia.
This is a true ensemble piece. Every cast member runs with the ball, gains valuable yardage and drives the film forward. Maria Conchita Alonso effectively portrays the mother neurotic with concern for her seemingly wayward son. Ernie Lively appends to his impressive resume as the dad who encourages his son to embrace a bigger world. Bijou Phillips even makes an appearance as the supportive, yet cynical little sister Christina. She brilliantly intimates without indicating her fear for big bro’s impending marriage. All the tension, however, would be wasted without Alexandra Breckenridge’s inciting portrayal of Kate as the daughter/sister-in-law nobody wants.
Brooke Burns and Angelika Baran make for a new breed of adventurer babe. They’re believable as they endeavor to get through the Gap (the Darien, not the one in the mall). If the Tomb Raider series is ever rebooted (and you know it will be) either of these ladies would serve as worthy ascendants to the mantle of Lara Croft.
Finally, I don’t know what it is about Johnny Messner; the guy just exudes cool and suave.
The DVD includes two webisodes of filmmaker interviews, behind-the-scenes location footage, and wisecracks from the cast. Writer/director Tom Whelan and co-writer Brian LaBelle discuss Holidays in Hell as an inspiration.
All six production webisodes are also available on The Art of Travel