By Scott Knopf | February 6, 2011

Deadhead-turned-evangelical, Carl Vanderveer (Kinnear) appears to be happy in his new life.  But when the church he loves turns on him, he’s forced to redefine his relationship with religion and God all while avoiding urbane blackmailers and backstabbing gunmen.  His passionate wife, Gwen (Connelly) and her father, a retired Marine, aren’t as supportive as Carl would hope.  Neither are the police.  Poor Carl’s left to defend himself with his teenage daughter and a Deadhead-turned-campus security guard named Honey (Tomei).  The film is quickly paced, well-shot, and if one joke works for you, chances are, they all will.

Director George Ratliff entered the public eye with Hell House (2001), an effective documentary about a Christian-themed haunted house in Texas.  He continues his examination of Christian life through Boulevard, an adaptation of Larry Beinhart’s novel of the same name.  And while the film does poke fun at religion, labeling it as “religion bashing” would be inaccurate.  Through his charismatic pastor, Dan Day (Brosnan), Ratliff examines the inevitable corruption that will arise when one man is given a God’s amount of devotion.  Boulevard features a number of interesting, well-rounded characters and strong writing.  I have a gut feeling that the script might actually be funnier than the end product.  There are a few missteps here and there but only one of them really hurts the film.         

Salvation Boulevard falls victim to a terrible score.  Composer George S. Clinton’s previous works include the Austin Powers trilogy, Big Momma’s House 2, and that softcore porn show “Red Shoe Diaries.”  If that doesn’t make clear just how bad the music in the film is, nothing short of actually hearing it will.  The strong performances and writing are all are undercut by this dopey, lowest common denominator score.  Kinnear works to make his character entertaining, relatable, and complex while Clinton’s score works to do the exact opposite.  Instead, he comes off as dim-witted and simple.  It’s a shame when a score tries to guide an audience though each high and low of the film as if there were no chance they’d recognize the comedy and drama on their own.

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