June 15, 2006

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Peaceful Warrior (PG-13)
Nick Nolte channels Pat Morita (sans that Arnold/Mr. Miyagi sparkle) in the “inspirational” wet noodle Peaceful Warrior.

Like an Afterschool Special somehow graced with a slightly bigger budget, Peaceful Warrior follows Dan Millman (Scott Mechlowicz), a jackass college student who lives a charmed life at UC Berkley because (in the alternate universe of this movie) all the girls lust after boys who are gymnasts. And yet poor Dan, with his pouty red lips, just can’t find satisfaction in his parents wealth and his impending attempt at Olympic gold. So he leaves a hottie in his bed and goes running at night, nothing but himself, his hoodie and his complex thoughts about the nature of life. Along the way, he meets an older man at a service station, a man Dan jackassishly calls Socrates (Nick Nolte), because Socrates makes a comment that, if you have never really paid attention in class, could sound like the spouting of some great philosophy. But let’s say you’ve skimmed a little Plato, some Descartes and maybe a few of the calendars at a Successories shop. In that case, you’ll probably recognize Socrates wisdom as motivational aphorisms (“a warrior does not give up what he loves, he finds the love in what he does” — because we all know that Crosby, Stills and Nash songs are where are all the really deep thoughts come from). Because Dan is suckered in by a pretty saying and because he’s never seen Karate Kid, quicker than you can say “wax on” he’s sweeping floors and attempting to catch screwdrivers winged at him at high speed in an attempt to learn Socrates’ special methods for clearing your mind and tearing it up on the gymnastic rings.

Naturally, because Dan’s skull is as thick and dull as those books he never cracks, it take several bouts of “I can do this on my own, man” before Dan suffers a life-threatening accident and truly give him self over to Nolte’s dronings.

Peaceful Warrior gets one thing right in all this wrong which is the utter stupidity of its young lead. There is something very real and familiar in urge to slap Dan upside the head (it’s an urge similar to the feeling I get when I watch any AJ scenes from The Sopranos). I remember myself as a college student and I’ve met plenty of college students since then and I feel comfortable in saying that, generally, that age is an age of insufferable twit-ness. (Perhaps you are a college student right now. Perhaps you think you are not a twit. Just wait.)

Dan’s all-pervasive twit-ness aside, Peaceful Warrior is laughable in its every attempt to offer spiritual enlightenment. Alas, not so laughable that it’s worth your nine bucks. F


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