“Feisty, flame-haired reporter, Kendall O’Dell is drawn into an evil web of conspiracy beyond anything she could have ever imagined when she accepts a position at a small newspaper in Castle Valley, Arizona.” Action heroine and local interest? Okay, I’m in. I shouldn’t have bothered though, because virtually from the get-go, this is cringe-inducingly bad. Nice though it is to see our state used, with scenes shot in New River and Black Canyon City, the script feels like it was written by someone who had never been to Arizona, and based it entirely on stereotypes.
Which is a bit of a surprise, because author Sylvia Nobel, who wrote both the source novel and co-wrote the screenplay, has apparently lived here since before I was born. So there’s absolutely no excuse for a world in which half the men wear Stetsons and there appears to be more lethal fauna than Australia. I’ve lived here for almost 15 years, and have never even seen a live snake in the wild: the heroine here (Kochan) virtually steps on one the first time she gets out of her car. About the only thing it gets right is that, yes, we locals do hate with a passion, the “snowbirds”, part-term winter residents who clog up restaurants and the freeways for us locals.
Not, under ANY circumstances, to be confused with the 1969 film in which Klaus Kinski played the Marquis De Sade, this sees O’Dell seeking to unentangle a web involving dead girls in the desert, an apparent police cover-up and a shady home for young runaways, all the while fending off the attentions of a rich adoption lawyer and a colleague at the paper. It certainly doesn’t help that five minutes in the company of Kendall would have any domestic abuse advocate reconsidering their position, she’s so irritatingly perky. The rest of the characters are one-dimensional cliches as well, and the storyline requires a staggering degree of belief suspension.
While the concept at its core is marginally plausible, it’s quite inconceivable that those involved would execute it in such a half-assed and incompetent way, behaving in a manner the writers of Scooby-Doo would reject as laughably implausible. Indeed, between its simplistic characters and Nancy Drew level plotting, the whole thing feels like a story written for an undemanding eleven-year-old. Interestingly, seven years ago, Nobel was involved in an earlier effort to get her work filmed, only to see it melt down in a morass of shady financing. That piece also talks about the circuitous route Nobel had to take to get the O’Dell franchise going, including selling her romance novels at Walmart, and it’s a great saga of someone with a dream coming out on top. Unfortunately, based on this lettuce-limp adaptation, they should have left the idea buried, as the cinematic gods clearly intended.
Dir: Nancy Criss
Star: Rebekah Kochan, Eric Roberts, Paul Greene, Bobbi Jeen Olson