Mr. Art Critic (2007)

Rating: C-

Dir: Richard Brauer
Star: Bronson Pinchot, Toni Trucks, John Lepard

MJ Clayton (Pinchot) is, as the title might suggest, an art critic – largely hated in his sphere of influence, Chicago, for his scornful reviews of local exhibitions. He takes a break from his work and goes to Mackinac Island, but there, he stumbles into Frank (Lepard) the “victim” of one of his stories. A drunken bet leads to Clayton ending up as an entrant in the town’s art festival, after his pronouncement that he’s capable of creating far better art than those he has written about. In the cold light of a hungover morning, Clayton tries desperately to back-track from the wager; Frank is having none of it, and the critic finds himself with only a few days to come up with something, and a serious case of artist’s block.

Potential salvation appears, in the form of Lisa (Trucks), an aspiring artist with no lack of talent but a shortage of self-confidence. Clayton offers to buy one of her pictures, so he can enter it in the contest under his own name. How will the deception play out? Despite a decent performance from Pinchot, who comes across as a young version of Bill Murray, and a lovely location, this is both too gentle and poorly thought-out to work. It was never made clear: what is the actual point being put across here? There’s no doubt Clayton learns some touchy-feely life-lesson or whatever, about the ability to create art being a gift, but how this happens, and how he changes from being an arrogant, self-centered prick, is hand-waved away.

Even late on, he’s basically the same jerk he was, relentlessly increasing his bid for Lisa’s work until her morality crumbles. It all seems a bit hypocritical and suspect, as well as more than a little condescending towards “big-city folk.” That said, as a tourist commercial for Mackinac, it’s lovely – if you recognize the Grand Hotel used here, it was also the location for Somewhere in Time. However, it’s really the cinematic equivalent of vanilla pudding: if there’s hardly anything here that’s exactly offensive, there’s also nothing much beyond bland time-passing.