Unabashedly corny, “Dakota” plays like a movie that’s tailor-made for audience heckling. With second-rate performances, choppy editing, and dialogue that is written at a 4th grade reading level, this film is lousy, even if it has its heart in the right place.
Widowed Kate (Abbie Cornish) lost her husband in the war in Afghanistan. Struggling to keep up the family farm with her daughter Alex (Lola Sultan), she runs the local volunteer fire department and fends off the big bad sheriff (Patrick Muldoon), who wants to buy the land for himself. When a fellow Marine makes good on his promise to return his buddy’s service dog to his family, Kate gets more than she bargains for when he decides to stick around.
There’s a lot going on here story-wise, but it still manages to feel very think because none of it ever comes together. There are subplots galore, and some of them make zero sense (why does the town have a dog-hating sheriff?). This could pass as a faith-based film too, with a family-friendly narrative, rural Georgia setting, and plenty of shots of American flags and churches. In other words, this is the type of movie your grandma will love to watch with the grandkids while she dozes off in her easy chair.
Not only is the story lame, but the performances are so bad that they are laughable. Muldoon creates a caricature of the “evil small town sheriff” that flops mightily, and the Southern drawls peter in and out on a whim or worse, totally disappear. William Baldwin is particularly dreadful as grandpa, but he’s never been a stellar talent in the first place. The one actor I actually started to feel bad for is Cornish, as she gets to deliver various takes on such gems as “we ain’t selling our farm!” and “you’ll never take this farm!” at least a half dozen times. Her performance is just as lousy as the others. Did anybody actually want to star in this movie?
There are some sweet, heartwarming moments which give “Dakota” a glimpse of charm. It’s not unwatchable, but it’s certainly a victim of its own mediocrity.
By: Louisa Moore