Touching Home (PG-13) (108 min.) — Movies don't get any more personal than Touching Home, a deathbed promise fulfilled by two sons to a father who broke most of his. Twin brothers Logan and Noah Miller pour years of hurt into the camera, occasionally to cliched effect, but with a sense of purpose that's rare.
Whether the movie means as much without knowing the backstory is debatable. That explains why the Millers often accompany their movie at its trickle-out engagements. They'll be in Tampa tonight for a free reception, discussion and screening with Tampa Theatre members ($15 for nonmembers) and conduct Q&A sessions after Friday and Saturday's screenings. (For details, go to www.tampatheatre.org/.)
Names are changed in Touching Home but little else. Lane and Clint Wilson (played by the twins) are aspiring pro baseball players. Their hopes are put on hold when they're compelled to return to their hardscrabble hometown, and their alcoholic, emotionally abusive father Charlie (Ed Harris). Roping the four-time Oscar nominee into this financially strapped project is a new indie legend of chutzpah; a blind-side appeal to Harris is videotaped and available at YouTube.com.
The Millers promised their father before he died that Harris would play him in an autobiographical movie they still hadn't started creating. Who could turn down that pitch?
Without underestimating the Millers' real-life troubles, there's little here that hasn't been dramatized in movies plenty of times before. Charlie will hit the bottle hard, his sons will prop him up until the burden gets too heavy, and they'll be rewarded with thoughtless betrayal. Harris settles into this raw-boned, slouching loser with the expected boozy gravitas, and although camera-friendly, the Millers aren't his acting equals, so pivotal scenes lose impact.
A few solid moments are provided by old pros Robert Forster as a baseball coach/surrogate father, Lee Meriwether as their wino grandmother and Brad Dourif as a mentally challenged uncle.
But even as Touching Home finds those moments, it's easier to appreciate the stars' dedication to a grass roots project than the project itself. The Millers have a terrifically inspiring story to tell — in their making-of book or in person, after the movie ends. B- (B+ when the Millers attend)
Steve Persall, Times film critic