Sunday, May 19, 2024

“SWEET DREAMS”

THE STORY – Forced into rehab, a man reluctantly agrees to coach a misfit softball team of recovering addicts to win a cash prize and prove that everyone, despite their past, can hit a home run.

THE CAST – Johnny Knoxville, Kate Upton, GaTa, Bobby Lee, Jay Mohr, Anderson.Paak, Tristan Thompson, Brian van Holt & Theo Von

THE TEAM – Lije Sarki (Director/Writer)

THE RUNNING TIME – 95 Minutes


In the 20 years since breaking out as the star of the “Jackass” TV series and films, Johnny Knoxville has had minimal opportunities to show his range as an actor. He has been in so many films, but few that give Knoxville a meaty or meaningful part. On the surface, “Sweet Dreams” doesn’t seem like it would offer that either. Because he stars alongside podcaster-comedians like Bobby Lee and Theo Von, along with other stand-ups like Mohammed Amer and Jay Mohr, it doesn’t immediately sound like the film is offering much in the way of drama. Even the plot sounds a bit like a riff off of other comedies, such as “Bad News Bears” and “The Longest Yard.” And yet, with all that against it, “Sweet Dreams” ends up working, not because of its comedy. Shockingly, the dramatic moments of the movie make this silly comedy succeed.

Knoxville plays Morris, a successful music video director whose drinking has finally caught up with him. He wakes up on a park bench with a bloody face and the realization that he has abandoned his young daughter to go on a binge. As part of his sentence, Morris is sent to a rehabilitation house called Sweet Dreams. This is far from the fancy, relaxing rehab in which one might imagine celebrities. Sweet Dreams is a bit of a dump. It’s a chaotic environment, with too many dudes in such a small place. The owner, Pete (Amer), is genuinely doing his best for the guys there, trying to get them the help they need. Nevertheless, he’s in over his head and is at risk of losing the house. When Morris and the rest of the guys catch wind that they might be losing Sweet Dreams, they rally together to compete in a local softball tournament to win $80,000. The only problem with this plan is that they’ve already been playing in the league and are terrible. Nevertheless, they enlist Morris to coach the team, believing he has the skills to help them win.

Immediately, the premise is painfully unoriginal. It has all the trappings of a stale comedy from the early 2000s. Thankfully, instead of bailing on the addiction storyline in favor of the softball team, the film leans on the painful realities of alcoholism to create genuinely moving moments. Morris abandoning his daughter isn’t played for a cheap joke about being a deadbeat dad; instead, it’s a scary, heartbreaking story that’s all too relatable for many addicts. The house deals with repeated calls about former residents either overdosing or taking their own lives. These moments are treated with sincerity, and they let the pain linger long enough to be taken seriously, even couched in a dumb softball comedy. Knoxville has never been better, showing a level of authenticity he has never revealed before. His performance elevates the film around him, capturing the anger, self-loathing, and deep anguish of an addict in recovery.

Lije Sarki makes his directorial debut with “Sweet Dreams,” which he co-wrote. Sarki also produced “The Peanut Butter Falcon,” a film that shares a lot of DNA with this one. Both films provide authenticity, allowing the real emotions of their stories to take center stage rather than overplaying it for comedy. Even so, the comedic moments of “Sweet Dreams” are where the film falls flat. Obviously, jokes, like when the team receives jerseys with the name “Sweet Creams” instead of “Sweet Dreams” on them, aren’t very funny. Lee’s turn as a character nicknamed “Tom Cruise” only serves to detract from the more human moments around recovery.

Who would’ve thought that in a comedy about a washed-up softball team starring Johnny Knoxville, it would be the dramatic moments that were the most effective? Despite an unoriginal premise and jokes that don’t really work, there’s a lot of heart in “Sweet Dreams.” If nothing else, this should be a sign card for Knoxville to continue striving for dramatic roles.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - The dramatic moments of addiction recovery are the strongest parts of the movie. Johnny Knoxville turns in a performance with lovely depth, offering poignant observations of taking responsibility in the recovery process. Director Lije Sarki keeps the movie reigned in, mostly avoiding the pitfalls that would’ve been easy to fall into with a film like this.

THE BAD - It’s only mildly funny, with a few of the performances dragging down the more authentic dramatic sequences. While a lot of time is dedicated to the softball games, there’s not much drama in the finale.

THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - None

THE FINAL SCORE - 6/10

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Daniel Howat
Daniel Howathttps://nextbestpicture.com
Movie and awards season obsessed. Hollywood Critics Association Member.

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<b>THE GOOD - </b>The dramatic moments of addiction recovery are the strongest parts of the movie. Johnny Knoxville turns in a performance with lovely depth, offering poignant observations of taking responsibility in the recovery process. Director Lije Sarki keeps the movie reigned in, mostly avoiding the pitfalls that would’ve been easy to fall into with a film like this.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>It’s only mildly funny, with a few of the performances dragging down the more authentic dramatic sequences. While a lot of time is dedicated to the softball games, there’s not much drama in the finale.<br><br> <b>THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - </b>None<br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>6/10<br><br>"SWEET DREAMS"