Sweet Dreams

Johnny Knoxville has a dog lick his rear end during the opening scene of Sweet Dreams. That’s as much of the Jackass-style zaniness as you’ll get, though. The movie features Knoxville in a rare dramatic role. He plays Morris, a formerly hot music video director whose life has hit the skids thanks to an alcohol addiction. He’s passed out on a park bench during that first moment, his nose bloodied and his shirt missing. Suffice to say, there’s no golf cart flipping or getting gored by a bull in this one.

Morris ends up at the Sweet Dreams recovery house, run by Pete (Mo Amer). In an inspired idea, the other residents are mostly played by comedians, including Theo Von and Bobby Lee. Morris’s AA sponsor, meanwhile, is portrayed by Jay Mohr. When they aren’t taking part in therapy sessions, the guys play on a softball team. They enter a competition, hoping to win the $80,000 necessary to prevent the home from being foreclosed upon. Morris acts as the team manager, bringing in some female ringers, including recovering addict Kat (Kate Upton).

There’s not a familiar note that Sweet Dreams fails to hit. Morris helps the ragtag team improve. He has to decide whether to stay with the team during the championship game or a take a career-revitalizing job. His ex-wife refuses to let him see their young daughter. Plotwise, this is by-the-numbers stuff. There’s nothing here that hasn’t been done in other rehab movies.

Knoxville is compelling, though. Shedding the rowdy Jackass image, he very successfully plays a guy struggling to achieve sobriety. In fact, the actor works in this role because of his persona. Believing him as somebody who has led a wild life is easy. In depicting Morris’s efforts to course-correct, Knoxville fills his performance with tenderness and vulnerability. It’s appealing to see a different side of him.

The other notable element is the supporting cast. Having comedians play the sobriety house members capitalizes on the rapport groups of funny people can develop. When the characters joke or trade jabs, it feels legitimate. Everyone works to build a believable dynamic in which these troubled men support – and occasionally antagonize – each other as they move toward a common goal. The ladies, it should be noted, are single-dimension afterthoughts. Despite being a well-known model, Upton doesn't even get a single close-up.

Although it breaks no new ground, Sweet Dreams is an amiable movie that celebrates the power of recovery to turn a person’s life around. I came to care about these people and their softball team despite knowing exactly how the plot would unfold. Johnny Knoxville nicely steps out of his comfort zone, helping a predictable story go down smoothly and pleasantly.

out of four

Sweet Dreams is rated R for pervasive language and some sexual references. The running time is 1 hour and 34 minutes.


© 2024 Mike McGranaghan