From the too-much-of-a-good-thing department comes David Sutherland’s six-hour documentary “Country Boys,” which follows three years in the lives of a pair of teenagers in Kentucky’s Appalachian region.
Chris Johnson is the solidly-built son of a chronic alcoholic father and a mother who works as a hotel cleaning woman. He plays surrogate parent to a younger sister, cooking her dinners and making sure she is supervised until their mother gets home. Chris is the kind of kid who is visited by bad luck whenever he is at the breakthrough of any emotionally triumphant experience.
Cody Perkins is an orphan – his mother committed suicide when he was a toddler and his father remarried but killed his new wife and himself. Cody lives with a step-grandmother who indulges his tastes for dyed hair, black nail polish, and goth-style fashion and would-be rock band endeavors (although he prefers Christian lyrics to go with his loud music). His girlfriend’s father is a mining technician who has his own recording studio. Cody is a so-so student with an edge for annoying his teachers.
Both boys attend the David School, an institution for kids with learning disabilities. I don’t see any learning disabilities here – just some smart-a*s kids who don’t pay attention to teachers who have no clue how to motivate their classes.
The main problem is that neither boy is particularly interesting for a half-hour’s viewing, let alone six hours, although Chris Johnson’s story is clearly more heartbreaking for the various obstacles thrown in his way (including the abrupt departure of his mother, his own decision to leave his alcoholic father, and the struggle to complete his high school education). But at six hours, it is clearly an overcooked endeavor – it is not difficult to get an advance case of the fidgets before the first of the three-part-film is over.
“Country Boys” is supposed to provide an in-depth look at today’s Appalachia, and to its credit it reminds the viewer that the American dream still has yet to take root in this part of the country. But Sutherland’s decision to follows two not-so-interesting kids for too long of a period dilute the effectiveness of his mission. It is difficult to stir passion for a subject when the subject is borderline monotonous.