The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape
Send this page to Twitter!  

THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


4 Minute Mile

Appropriately, it took about four minutes for me to realize that I'd seen 4 Minute Mile before. Not just that, I'd also seen it two or three dozen times, with different titles. This is one of those stories about a troubled-but-talented kid who finds himself under the tutelage of a wise older mentor who harbors his own personal pain. If nothing else, 4 Minute Mile at least nods to its own by-the-numbers formula in having the mentor jokingly imitate Mr. Miyagi from The Karate Kid in one scene.

Kelly Blatz plays Drew Jacobs, a high school student who has never recovered from the unexpected death of his father. His home life is a mess. Brother Wes (Cam Gigandet) is a low-level drug peddler who makes Drew run money back and forth to an ill-tempered dealer. Mother Claire (Kim Basinger) kind of wanders around in a fog, seemingly unable to help either of her boys. Drew's anger and misery cause him to have a chip on his shoulder, and he gets kicked off the school's track team as a result. Initially, he moans about it to girlfriend Lisa (Analeigh Tipton), but then he is approached by Mr. Coleman (Richard Jenkins), a former track coach turned aging alcoholic. Coleman tells him that if he can ever learn to “run through the pain,” he could get a college scholarship. Drew accepts the challenge and begins working toward his goal of getting out of his miserable way of life.

4 Minute Mile is essentially two movies in one. The first movie is about Drew's inexplicable loyalty to his scumbag brother. Scenes where Wes makes him visit the dealer, or where the dealer threatens him over Wes's shortchanging of the profits, are heavy-handed and unconvincing. We can't understand why Drew doesn't just tell Wes that he's not going to do it anymore, except that, for some reason, the film thinks it needs to have some sort of physical danger for him to be placed in. It also needs a convenient way to introduce a pivotal third-act plot twist, which, as handled here, is a huge mistake on every conceivable level. If you ever want to talk about contrived twists, 4 Minute Mile will give you a stellar example.

The other movie is a little better, if still utterly routine. Coleman of course puts Drew through the requisite series of nonsensical training exercises (including hauling a tire from one side of a swimming pool to the other), all with the intention of helping him break free of the emotional shackles that are holding him back. It's been done before, yet is redeemed somewhat by the performance from the always-reliable Richard Jenkins. While 4 Minute Mile never misses a chance to be obvious and predictable, Jenkins invests Coleman with a sincerity that elevates the material. The actor draws a connection between Coleman and Drew, suggesting that the older man knows he can't save himself but will settle for saving the kid. That's an interesting dynamic. Jenkins has good chemistry with Kelly Blatz, who believably conveys Drew's barely-contained inner rage. Basinger and Tipton are good, too, although – as is sadly far too often the case – the female roles here are about as one-dimensional as can be.

Director Charles-Olivier Michaud stages the running scenes with a certain visual inventiveness, often keeping the camera above Drew so that it's almost looking down on him. This feeds nicely into the idea that the character is reaching for something higher, just outside his grasp. Good direction can't compensate for all the cliches in the screenplay by Josh Campbell and Jeff Van Wie, though. The writers make no attempt to do anything differently than it has been done in other films of this sort, nor do they introduce anything to give the story a fresh spin. They've merely made it about running rather than karate or any of the myriad other topics that have been previously applied to this creaky old formula. 4 Minute Mile is watchable thanks to Jenkins and Blatz, but its overall blandness and familiarity will cause it to evaporate from your memory in a flash.

( out of four)

4 Minute Mile is rated PG-13 for mature thematic material involving violence, drinking and drugs, and for smoking and some language. The running time is 1 hour and 36 minutes.

Buy a copy of my book, "Straight-Up Blatant: Musings From The Aisle Seat," on sale now at! Paperback and Kindle editions also available at!

Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.