America The Corny
This drama starring Dennis Quaid and Zac Efron is about farming genetically modified corn and one family’s struggle to adjust to the increasing pressures of the industry. As the film searches for a kernel of spice, it falls flat with a stereotypical patriotic pop.
2 Stars: Perfect for anti-GMO activists
Henry Whipple (Dennis Quaid, no relation to Mr. Whipple from the old "Please don't squeeze the Charmin" commercials), is the owner of Whipple Farms which has been in the family for generations. Whipple’s oldest son Grant is off climbing mountains in Argentina and his youngest son Dean (Zac Efron) yearns to be a professional race car driver because he can’t get the heck out of Iowa fast enough.
Henry’s wife Irene (Kim Dickens) should have “Welcome” tattooed on her forehead because she’s the biggest doormat-of-a-spouse I’ve seen in a movie in a long time. She puts up with Henry’s affair with small-town beauty Meredith (Heather Graham) because, well, who knows why?
Liberty Seeds is the local big-agribusiness masquerading for real-life GMO agri/biotech company Monsanto. By not only genetically modifying the corn but by patenting the grain as well, they have forever changed the farming industry.
Curiously, perhaps symbolically (honestly, I’m not sure because wouldn’t it be just too obvious?), Dean does many things among the rows of corn in this movie. He dangerously races his car through the cornrows and crashes into a tree (warning: GMO corn could be dangerous!). Dean has sex in the grain silo, feet buried in the seed (seed — get it?). Dean and a rival fist-fight in the cornfields until one bludgeons the other to death with a hammer (GMO corn = death!). However, I'm willing to admit that sometimes, like a cigar, an ear of corn is just an ear of corn.
The only satisfying crunch in this corn flake of a film is the young Maika Monroe, who plays Cadence, Dean’s girlfriend. Monroe is lovely, sharp and pops boldly on-screen with a subtle but emotional performance. She plays the only character in the film worth rooting for.
Bottom line: This movie lacks engaging characters and heightened drama. Don’t get me wrong, I think there are real, important issues to be discussed about GMO farming — I’m just not sure a narrative film is the best venue to have that discussion.
Photo credit: Sony Pictures Classics