** The true story of Mike Burden (Garrett Hedlund) and a South Carolina Ku Klux Klan-centric store and museum called the Redneck Shop is a compelling one. Raised by the Klan after being orphaned, the title character undergoes a philosophical sea change that begins after he falls for a woman (a charming Andrea Riseborough) who finds the KKK and the idea of a shrine to racism to be bad, actually. Burden is akin to 2018's Green Book in that it's exactly the type of overwrought morality lesson Hollywood feels great about telling. Also much like Green Book, there are some powerful performances—Tom Wilkinson and Forest Whitaker are quite good as a Klan leader and a preacher, respectively—but the film falls flat as the clichés pile up. While certainly not without its charms, the heavy-handed Burden suffers from a presentation that relies too heavily on the true story at its core and loses focus on presenting that narrative artfully. R. DONOVAN FARLEY. Fox Tower.
Pixar Animation Studios may have found sublime pathos in stories of cars, fish, superheroes and toys, but it fails to do the same for road-tripping elves. Set in an alternate reality where magic spells and mundane technologies coexist, Onward chronicles the misadventures of two elf brothers (voiced by Tom Holland and Chris Pratt) on a quest for a gem that will resurrect their dead father for one day. The film is filled with glorious sight gags, from a gargantuan cheese puff that the pair use as a boat to a concrete dragon that's as scary as it is silly. What Onward lacks is the emotional ferocity of Pixar wonders like The Incredibles, Inside Out and WALL-E. The film's elvish antics are mildly amusing, but when a studio known for daring both kids and adults to face the terror and beauty of intense feelings settles for making a mechanically cheery movie like Onward, it isn't just a comedown. It's cowardice. PG. BENNETT CAMPBELL FERGUSON. Cedar Hills, Clackamas, Eastport, Bridgeport, Cascade, Cinema 99, City Center, Division, Evergreen Parkway, Lloyd, Pioneer Place, Sherwood, Tigard, Studio One.
The Way Back
Sold as a sports movie, The Way Back wishes instead to render a harrowing portrait of addiction but only manages to evoke the bleariest stages of a midweek hangover. There's a joylessness pervading every moment of Jack Cunningham's life of quiet desperation, and viewers accompanying the middle-aged divorcee (Ben Affleck) on his daily trudge from construction job to San Pedro's seediest dive might readily excuse the functional alcoholic for self-medicating throughout. Lord knows, Gavin O'Connor's direction feels so willfully benumbed that what should have been signal moments in any recovery drama—when, say, the ex-high school hoops star accepts a midseason coaching gig at his alma mater and begins that titular path—are blacked out as we blithely skip from Cunningham's beer-sodden attempts to resign from the role to his first practice. More frustrating, the requisite bunch of rag-tag misfits catch lightning in a bottle according to template, but the film takes perverse pride in undercutting any thrills of victory with successively more tragic revelations that justify our hero's dissolution. While Affleck sells the inspiring fervor of an accidental mentor, his only actual advice to the team concerns hard fouls and a full-court press. As the old basketball maxim goes, you can't coach height. Nor, alas, depth. R. JAY HORTON. Dine-In Progress Ridge 13, Mill Plain 8, Vancouver Mall 23, Cedar Hills, Clackamas, Cornelius, Eastport, Oak Grove, Bridgeport, Cascade, Cinema 99, City Center, Division, Evergreen Parkway, Fox Tower, Lloyd, Sherwood, Tigard, St. Johns Twin Cinema & Pub, Studio One.