By Liz Lopez
Many times when film fans read about a new movie with an inspirational, family friendly story, there is a tendency to turn and select other options at the theater. I was a tad skeptical about how the true story of a young athlete would unfold, and if it would hold my attention. I can take or leave sports drama films, but in the case of 23 Blast, I enjoyed it overall and forgave a couple of the scenes by actors that may not have as much experience on camera as other cast members. After all, 23 Blast was shot entirely on location in Travis Freeman’s hometown of Corbin, Kentucky and the look and feel of life in the small town truly is reflected.
The script about Travis Freeman, a teenager who lost his sight in the 1990s and learned to lead a full life, is co-written by Toni Hoover and Corbin, Kentucky-born Bram Hoover, who also stars as Jerry Baker, Freeman’s best friend and teammate. I did not follow the story of Freeman while he continued to play football with his team after the vision loss, but I am glad this film inspired from his life is having a theatrical release after winning the 2013 Heartland Film Festival’s Audience Choice Award for Narrative Feature. Anyone who grew up in a community that strongly supports Friday night high school football as the social activity of the week will certainly find similarities to their own hometown life. When it is time to select a family film to watch this weekend, this is a good selection, if the intent is to steer away from more violent fare.
Dylan Baker (Spider-Man 2 & 3, 13 Days) makes his directorial debut with 23 Blast and plays a role in the film as Travis’ father, Larry. Travis Freeman (Mark Hapka) grew up playing football since he was a tot, alongside other young boys in his community of Corbin, Kentucky, and specifically with his best friend, Jerry Baker (Hoover). At a tender age, they make headlines in the local media for the talent they share on the playing field. Things change drastically for Freeman when an illness causes the loss of his sight. Instead of staying in total darkness and depression, his actions to live with his abilities garner attention aside from that of his hometown. The teen did not achieve success all on his own and many in the community helped get him there, despite a few naysayers. Among his support is Coach Farris (Stephen Lang), his friend Ashley (Alexa Vega), disability advocate and walking coach Patty Wheatley (Becky Ann Baker). His mother, Mary (Kim Zimmer) is reluctant to let him out of her sight at first, but she gets on board so her son can be an active participant in the life and activities he knows. The film also stars Max Adler (Glee), Timothy Busfield (Field of Dreams, Thirtysomething), and Fred D. Thompson (Sinister, Law & Order, Die Hard 2) among the large cast.
23 Blast is rated PG-13, but there are scenes of Baker indulging beer and other risky behavior. The film is produced by Gary Donatelli and Toni Hoover. Executive producers are Daniel Snyder (owner of the Washington Redskins), Misook Doolittle and Brent Ryan Green. The film opens nationwide on October 24th, including Austin (Metropolitan Theater), Tinseltown 20 in Pflugerville and Santikos Embassy 14 in San Antonio, through Ocean Avenue Entertainment, Inc. in association with Toy Gun Films.
Source: Ocean Avenue Entertainment