Austin Found

Austin Found is yet another case where the trailer sells the audience on a different kind of movie.  In two-and-a-half minutes, the film is presented as a foolish dark romp featuring incompetent criminals.  At 100 minutes, it’s warped southern goodness that’s tonally confused and ends in irony.

Bloodline’s Linda Cardellini plays Leanne, a Texan pageant mom living vicariously through her daughter Patricia (Ursula Parker).  Leanne can’t escape her looming debt, but she’d rather break her legs than pull Patricia out of her expensive dance lessons.  In a desperate pinch, Leanne is inspired by a local tragedy – a kidnapping, to be more specific – and she devises a plan to stage the abduction of her own child in order to generate a spotlight for her family;  possibly opening up opportunities to get rich quick.  After all, that other family sold the rights to their story for a TV movie.

Austin Found sets itself up for satire, but confoundedly passes up the chance to skewer such sensitive subject matter.  However, as the audience watches director/co-writer Will Raee aim low to poke fun at Southern stereotypes, we’re kind of relieved that the filmmaker didn’t bother to hit dicier targets.

There’s a running problem throughout Austin Found where the audience is challenged to guess the jokes.  For example, it’s difficult to laugh at an organized candlelit vigil for Patricia when the community is selling their heartbreak so well.  If this is, in fact, a joke and the film plans to be broad, this situation has to be more obvious (instead of candles, have locals light flaming batons in Patricia’s honour).

Good material does exist in Austin Found though.  Cardellini’s desperation is addictive, Patrick Warburton channels his classic arrogance to great effect as a police chief, and kidnappers Skeet Ulrich and Craig Robinson create a convincing friendship.  Although, the best bits happen when Robinson and young Ursula Parker are together.  They’re a sweet on-screen team that relate to each other as unfortunate pawns do.


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