Near the Texas-Mexico border, Wendell Baker has a few things going for him: his genial nature and optimism and the love of Doreen. His troubles? He dances around telling her that he loves her, and his idea of work is illegal. He's arrested, imprisoned, and she puts him behind her when she realizes that even prison is just a good excuse for him to play football with the guys. When he is paroled, it's to a job in the "hotel industry" at a board and care home for seniors, where the head nurse is running a scam. Three of the residents respond to Wendell's good heart. Can they expose the scam and help Wendell win back Doreen? Written by
"It's hard to hold onto your idealism after you've lost your innocence"
This is a nice movie that packs some laughs & entertainment as well as an inspiring message. Luke Wilson plays the protagonist Wendell, a seemingly clueless dreamer whose "capitalist ventures" always land him in hot water.
This movie carries a great message about what it takes to succeed as a human being. In particular, the line in the title of my review (spoken by Kris Kristofferson) applies to Wendell. If you like movies about people who stay fresh & optimistic despite life's hard knocks, this is a good one to watch. Other films that delve into the same theme are "Little Miss Sunshine", "Chocolat", "The Marc Pease Experience" and the classic film "Zorba the Greek".
"The Wendell Baker Story" features a lot of veteran actors whom you may not recognize at first, such as Harry Dean Stanton (who played the leading role in "Paris Texas" and also a memorable role in "Alien"), Seymour Cassel (who got an Oscar nomination for his role in the 1968 film "Faces") and my favourite of the lot: Kris Kristofferson (one of the best musician-turned-actors I've ever seen).
Unfortunately, some powerful scenes featuring these actors were cut from the final version of this film. I suppose it was to give the movie more of a snappy comedic appeal instead of carrying a heavier vibe. But you can still see these scenes in the deleted material on the DVD.
The film, as it was released, balances itself squarely between comedy and heart. In other words, it's not a laugh-a-minute riot, nor is it a film that makes you stop & ponder your place in the universe ...though it could have gone either way. I suppose you can take it at your own pace. Me, I would've liked it to be at least a half hour longer & feature more of the dramatic scenes that were cut.
The music is a real treat and lends a nice, rustic Texas vibe to the whole show. Peppered throughout the film are songs by Bob Dylan, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, etc. Oddly enough I don't think there was anything by Kris Kristofferson. But his excellent performance on screen is enough to satisfy any fan.
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