Justin Timberlake Still Acting in The Open Road

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While Justin Timberlake has already established himself as something of an indispensable satellite member of the SNL cast, his forays into the realm of film acting have been limited to lower-profile affairs, serving mixed results. His notices for Alpha Dog were good, he emerged relatively unscathed playing a Quebecois hockey player in Mike Myers' critically trounced The Love Guru, and bit turns in Black Snake Moan and Southland Tales made no lasting imprint. But Timberlake clearly wants to break on through to the other side, and what the Prince of Pop wants (a shot at), the Prince of Pop gets. Unfortunately for him, the chance to pull on a pair of green tights and save the world slipped through his fingers.

But there's always The Open Road.

What's that you say? You haven't heard of The Open Road, in which Timberlake plays the estranged son to Jeff Bridges' baseball legend, convincing the salty rapscallion to visit his ailing mom Mary Steenburgen (who else) before she undergoes dangerous heart surgery? That's OK, neither had we -- but it's opening August 28th, so here's your crash course.

Bridges plays Kyle Garrett like Nolan Ryan as channeled by Dan Rather, speaking only in folksy down-homeisms when not taking full advantage of the whinier upper-reaches ("Haven't you ever lost your wallet?") of his register. But Bridges is a screen heavy, and his presence helps not his costar, whose flimsiness has never been made more apparent -- as if the process of acting requires nothing more than to deliver lines earnestly, where possible through a half-cocked smile, as if to relay a measure of in-the-moment relaxedness. Also, his character drives a red Hummer, which -- while providing an opportunity for a zinger you've likely heard several times before -- is an automotive accoutrement that instantly reads "douchebag." There's no other way to slice that.

I was also struck by the presence of the MLB logo behind Bridges in the press conference scene. Alas, Moneyball -- so close, and yet so far. Let's hope Mary makes it through better than Justin's career-expansion prospects do.

Verdict: As entertaining as watching a spotted heifer in a pansy patch.

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