I saw an advanced screening of Peaceful Warrior Tuesday night. All I knew about the movie came from a trailer I saw a few months ago: a male gymnast gets seriously injured, but miraculously returns to top form with the spiritual help of Kenny Rogers.
Okay, so that's actually Nick Nolte sporting the Kenny Rogers look. But no matter. Based on Dan Millman's semi-autobiographical book The Way of the Peaceful Warrior, the movie follows hotshot athlete Dan (Scott Mechlowicz) who has natural success with academics, gymnastics, and girls, but is rocked by a series of bad dreams. Sleepless, he jogs to a gas station near campus, where the attendant (Nolte) has mysterious abilities and intrigues him in a Miyagi-meets-Yoda way. Dan tries to do without the teachings for a while, but then experiences a traumatic injury that forces him to face how much he needs that guidance.
While the basic message of the movie is simple -- you're happiest when you live in the moment -- there's a lot of spiritual hokum that surrounds it. And while Nolte's character is supposed to be deep and mystical, the actor comes across as gruff and straightforward. With such an overtly positive theme, I feel a little guilty for nitpicking, but I just didn't find the movie very resonant.
I should mention that the film is directed by Victor Salva. The name seemed familiar when it appeared in the closing credits, so I looked him up. Here's what I learned. I must admit that it affects my reaction to the film a little. I figured that those who might object to attending Roman Polanski movies would want to know.