“You don’t need a passport to know what state you’re in…” – Harvey Danger
Conner Layne (Christopher Masterson) is all set to marry his high school sweetheart right after high school graduation, and then follow the plans through to their next step by attending college. Unfortunately, on the eve of his wedding, he learns something new about his fiance, and decides to halt all wedding plans and go on an extended honeymoon by himself.
Of course, he’s pretty green to international travel, and his spontaneous trip to Managua, Nicaragua leaves him penniless, scared and surrounded by the company of hot, naked Dutch women (ok, so it wasn’t all bad).
Months later we catch up with Conner in Panama, as travelers Christopher (Johnny Messner) and Darlene (Brooke Burns) invite him to come along with them as they attempt a World Record crossing through the Darién Gap area of the rainforest connecting Panama to Columbia. The rub is that there’s no roads to do such a feat, so the adventure should take over a year for the group to hack their way through, with Jeep in tow. Conner is hesitant at first, he’s supposed to be heading back home for college, but eventually decides to go along for the adventure. Conner, Christopher and Darlene meet up with their extended crew consisting of pirate-esque named One Ball (James Duval), Bullet (Shalim Ortiz), Two Dogs (Jake Muxworthy) and G-Spot (Angelika Baran), and the group sets upon their task.
First off, the film is absolutely gorgeous. Whether the group is crossing a river or Conner is investigating Macchu Piccu, the film is worth seeing for the opportunity to feel like you’re right there in those environments. Call it vicarious travel; all the joys, none of the discomfort.
My major criticism of this film, however, and maybe I’ve seen one too many films in my day and become cynical and jaded, is that I never felt any suspense or danger for any of the characters. Even when things go wrong, and of course things will and do, I never worried for anyone’s safety. It was too… events felt very cursory and surface, and we weren’t going to get too much deeper than that.
Beyond external dangers, you would expect a crew of people who have spent over a year fighting through the rainforest to be, I don’t know, a bit emotionally and psychologically raw. Here, however… it’s like they’re just on an extended hike. Even facial hair seems less ragged than it should be.
The film doesn’t end with the Darién crossing, of course, as we then follow Conner as he continues his travels and finds himself addicted to the idea of going wherever whenever. I question where his seemingly bottomless ability to afford to go wherever whenever is coming from, but maybe he got paid much more to travel through the Darien than I originally suspected (or perhaps I missed the line of dialogue where his finances are fully explained).
“The Art of Travel” is a quality adventure, and as a travelogue, a gorgeous sight to behold. Don’t expect anything overtly life-changing or philosophically new (or challenging, for that matter). It’s just another tale to hear; another adventure to watch.