How many ways can a movie be bad?

Harrington's Notes is, to start off in about the only positive light I can imagine, at least a movie with good intentions, an attempt to portray conservationism and caring for the environment in a good light. But with movies like this for your cause, who needs enemies?

There's a botanist in a coma who has found a plant so rare that it will prevent commercial development in a particularly beloved piece of wilderness. But there's the coma thing, and all there is to go on is her notes.

There's a guy who works for the strip mining operation that wants to exploit said wilderness. He actually grew up in nearby Pretense (how transparent is that?), so is sent in "undercover" to prevent those notes from being found, and otherwise circumvent efforts against the mining.

And then there's our hero, the park ranger who works valiantly against even her own boss to save the environment.

Naturally, of these three, the two not in a coma end up falling for each other. Mr. Strip Miner gets in touch with his own personal history, a long dead conservationist relative who, it is discovered, documented this plant's existence many years previously. After some missteps, his conscience takes over, and between the two of them, they save the day.

Granted, there's enough of a plot here to build a reasonable, though predictable, film around - it's the execution the utterly fails. The bland directing almost flaunts the cheapness of the production. The dialog is riddled with exposition and moralizing, with no attempt at character. The actors can be forgiven for having such poor material to work with, but it hardly seems they tried that hard.

It seems like someone had an inside deal with a cheesy signmaking shop, as most locations are introduced by bland establishing shots centered plainly on a big piece of plastic that hardly belongs.

Beyond its transparent and all-encompassing message, the movie bets it all on the change of heart of our hometown boy. A whole litany of reasons for this change are given. We know it's coming. Yet, we don't really see it happen. If we'd had a couple moments of intimacy with this guy, maybe there'd be something to see.

From the jarring opening, to the predictable end, there's no aspiration of artistry. This movie is so self-important, so clearly needing to make its point, it's unbearable. For something so in love with its unassailable central idea, the film is filled with acting, and no actual feeling.

That this film can claim to have won awards I can only attribute to political sentiments on the part of some in the position to give out such awards. Sure, I'm not interested in strip mining the landscaping, but I'm not going to encourage anyone to see a film devoid of any artistic merit on that basis.

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