His big hit, “Jerry Maguire,” starred Tom Cruise as a top sports agent in free fall after shooting, Icarus-like, for the highest of heights. In “Elizabethtown,” Crowe himself melts his wings trying to capture lightning once again with a similar story of sneaker designer Drew Baylor (Orlando Bloom) crash-driving when his billion-dollar footwear baby, Spasmotica, gets a massive recall. In both movies, the death blow is softened by an unexpected love interest.
Here’s where the major difference lies. “Maguire” has an intriguing, alluring Renee Zellweger, while “Elizabethtown” is combusted by an annoyingly obnoxious Kirsten Dunst.
Playing Chatty-Cathy flight attendant Claire, Dunst latches onto her sole passenger to Elizabethtown, Kentucky, the near-catatonic Drew. Our hero is heading to the rural hamlet to retrieve the corpse of his father, Mitch, the announcement of whose demise diverted Drew’s attempt at suicide.
Mitch was originally from Elizabethtown and was visiting his brother when the Grim Reaper paid him a call. There, Mitch was something of celebrity for reasons unknown. The colorful locals are highly possessive of his body, which they want buried in the family plot. They enter into a huge dispute with Drew, who hopes to honor the wishes of his mother, Hollie, with the cremation of Dad.
As the film builds toward a nutty memorial service, romance blossoms between Drew and the talky flight attendant. It results in a lengthy epilogue showing the wounded Romeo driving across country on a Claire-controlled trip that ends in her arms.
A former Rolling Stone Magazine writer, Crowe has a great collection of classic rock, which he uses in his movies. In fact, you could say that Elton John and Tom Petty save “Elizabethtown” from total failure.
Now, if only those superstars could design a sneaker... or a screenplay.