A New York Times story from 2010 inspired “Kodachrome,” a Netflix original movie about a trio’s cross-country drive to Kansas to the last photo lab in the world that could develop Kodak’s famed color-reversal film. The much beloved photography format is now dead, the very last rolls being processed nearly a decade ago at a small shop in the Midwest. Director Mark Raso took that idea and turned it into a paint-by-numbers road trip redemption movie between father and son.
Low-level record label executive Matt (Jason Sudeikis) hasn’t spoken to his photographer father Ben (Ed Harris) in more than a decade. When his father’s nurse Zoe (Elizabeth Olsen) shows up unannounced in his office one afternoon, Matt learns his old man is dying of cancer and doesn’t have much time left. Zoe pleads with him to drive Ben to Kansas to get his four remaining rolls of Kodachrome film processed before the last lab in the world that can develop them shuts down for good. It’s a dying man’s last wish, and of course Matt’s “no” eventually turns into a “yes,” and another road movie is born.
This is a tired formula that doesn’t feel all too fresh here. It’s emotionally loaded by design, hoping to bring the waterworks to all who watch it. There’s the dying father, the estranged son, and the quirky nurse turned love interest. The unoriginal premise isn’t helped by the mediocre script, but somehow all of this obviousness is still worth watching.
Less than ten minutes in, you’ll correctly guess how this film will end. You’ve seen this one dozens of times before, but what elevates it from the junk heap are the performances from all three leads. They’re sincere and touching, even when it becomes obvious that you’re being manipulated by the filmmakers. It’s a dramatic, heartfelt tearjerker that’s an ode to growing old and the difficulties of adapting to an ever-changing world, even if the reliance on musty metaphors becomes a ‘let’s beat our audiences over the head‘ thematic exercise of getting lost and becoming insignificant in the digital age.
The trite movie throws in a distracting hipster / indie soundtrack for good measure too, and everything you think will transpire does. But somehow the film remains oddly compelling, especially if you’re a fan of the road trip genre. Predictable to a fault, it’s better to not get tied up in the destination and rather focus on the joy of the journey.
“Kodachrome” is currently available for streaming exclusively on Netflix.