“WaterWalk” re-opens the Rosebud

Reopening the Rosebud this weekend, "WaterWalk" is an ambitious film featuring the talents of many Milwaukee locals, but its problems are too numerous to ignore.

By - Sep 9th, 2012 09:11 am
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Still from WaterWalk

After six long months of closed doors and still popcorn poppers, the Rosebud Cinema in Wauwatosa is relighting the marquee for its grand reopening this weekend with a screening of the family adventure film WaterWalk.

Shot all over the midwest, Waterwalk features the talents of many Milwaukee locals as well as a few notable Milwaukee landmarks. The film has high aspirations and a low budget, and it should be praised for its can-do approach. But ultimately it falls short too many times to ignore. I really wanted to like this film, but I couldn’t get over its amateur delivery.

Based on a true story, WaterWalk follows a father and son as they attempt a seemingly ludicrous thousand-mile canoe pilgrimage across the American midwest. Their chart their course after the 300-year-old route of Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet. The two Frenchmen tamed the territory in the name of fur trapping and missionary conversions. Father Steven and son Justin have quite a different goal. Their aim is to finally come together amid the open water, to find some common ground, to “encounter each other,” as the tagline dramatically puts it.

Both men have  plenty of soul searching to do, which makes them ripe for the film’s attempt at contemplative drama. Steven has recently lost has job as an obituary writer for the newspaper (despite being awarded the much coveted Obituary Writer of the Year award, or the “Obi” as those in the biz call it), and Justin has been seriously negligent in his babysitting duties.  After a school project leads Justin to Marquette and Joliet’s explorations, the two men decide to leave their cares on the shore and set off on a family bonding adventure.

The two-hour film suffers from pretty much every low-budget problem you can imagine, and some shortcomings that aren’t budgetary. The film is too long and paced poorly, the acting is overly dramatic and wooden, and the editing operates on the principle that every cut must be awkward. The most glaring flub, or series of flubs, is the muddled, buzzing, and generally unclear audio. The problematic audio becomes extremely distracting and distancing from the harmonious world the film attempts to create.

But the film isn’t entirely without charm. Director/star Robert Cicchini, who had a walk on role in The Godfather: Part III, does a much better job in front of the camera than behind it and manages to tap into real human emotion from time to time. The sprawling, multi-state scope of the film is also admirable given the film’s budget, and affords some truly beautiful images of the midwest.  But that, ambition and our natural tendency to root for the underdog aren’t enough to make WaterWalk more than a noble but lost cause.

Categories: Movies

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