As college friends grow older and spend less time together, there are subtle shifts within existing relationships. Kyle Smith's slight, but enjoyable, feature "Turkey Bowl" explores this evolving dynamic within the context of a real-time friendly football game. Once a year, eight friends (with two newbies) get together for an afternoon of symbolic fun on the field in an epic battle to win a frozen turkey. It's a time to catch up, a time to reminisce, a time to explore what it means to be together. There are no grand messages within "Turkey Bowl," just a pleasing casualness and flow to the conversation and camaraderie shared by the group. It's easy to like the film and the unexpected charm of its dialogue. The performers are an appealing crew even as we know them only superficially. Certain viewers will really appreciate the simplicity of "Turkey Bowl." But as I say that, I am confident that another (perhaps larger) group will be mystified by this one hour exercise.
The movie has no particular plot, it just is. As such, it is NOT a film for everyone. In many ways, the experience of "Turkey Bowl" feels more like a experiment than a fully formed narrative. I wonder how Smith might expand his subject were he ever to revisit these characters. He has set up an intriguing scenario and I was certainly willing to spend time with its participants, but the film's gentle tone and open-ended feel doesn't add up to much in the long run. I liked the movie, I just don't know that I'll remember it in a few months. Smith has a talent, especially showcased within the subtleties of the screenplay, and I think that he is definitely one to watch. Whether "Turkey Bowl" should serve as your introduction to his work entirely depends on whether you think watching one hour of touch football will ignite your interest.
From another era, "The Big Chill" (and before that "The Return of the Secaucus Seven) covered similar themes in a broader and more long range context. There is a throw-away bit in "The Big Chill" that has the cast playing football. It's a brief moment in the grand scheme of things, but it highlighted different personality traits within the players. I flashed back onto that scene a couple of times watching Smith's piece. Had he placed the game in a larger plot, it might have really resonated. As is, it is a fun hour. Whether or not you'd invest in the DVD and watch it on repeated viewings, however, I'm not so sure. But watch out for Kyle Smith--I suspect we'll be hearing more from him. KGHarris, 10/11.