Dec 11, 2002 at 12:00 am

Anson Mount is chiseled and charming, with pretty eyes and an easy smile, and a head of hair that would look good even in an egg yolk-stiffened Mohawk. This is why it’s difficult to reconcile his masculine beauty with his lack of Hollywood fortune; his biggest role to date is as Britney Spears’ deflowerer in Crossroads, a responsibility many have wished for but only he has achieved.

Mount gets the chance to carry a movie of his own in Tully, in which he plays the sun-baked title character. Unfortunately it’s a wasted opportunity. Tully is a few years old at this point, having made the festival rounds in 2000, and there’s little doubt as to why it took so long to crawl into theaters. The only curiosity is why Tully is getting a theatrical release at all. It plays as innocuous and ploddingly predictable as any in-house Family Channel production, all earnest farm parable and small-town soap opera.

Tully and his brother, Earl (Glenn Fitzgerald), work their father’s Nebraska farm with such corn-fed good nature that Tully Sr. (Bob Burrus) must have pumped Aaron Copland into their boyhood bedrooms every night of their younger years. When Tully is done hauling grain and tilling soil at the end of each day, he slips easily into his second job servicing the young ladies of the area who just can’t say no to the backseat of his vintage Cadillac.

Problems, uh, crop up when Tully Sr. receives a notice saying he owes $300,000 to a collection agency he’s never heard of, throwing a wrench into his son’s carefree existence. Naturally, old family secrets come to the surface after years of submersion, although it’s hard to tell which is worse — what the bank worries bring or Tully’s growing friendship with Ella (Julianne Nicholson), a local girl to whom he never gave the time of day before she went off to college. The men of Tully don’t fully understand the nature of love — or refuse to. Only when their lives are laid out in front of them, past, present and future, do the sacrifices they’ve made truly sink in.

There’s nothing particularly wrong with Tully, but there’s nothing all that right, either. It’s one of those short story-to-screen movies that probably had sweet, subtle character depth to spare on the page, but on celluloid appears flat and unremarkable. It’s just a tad too earnest to be special, an earnestness that would have sufficed had the melodrama been dialed down a few notches. Maybe Mount should have worn a Mohawk.


Opens Friday exclusively at the Maple Art Theatre (4135 W. Maple, W of Telegraph). Call 248-542-0180.

Erin Podolsky writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].