“Love and Honor” is a Nicholas Sparks book masquerading as a political commentary. Directed by newcomer and Michigan alum Danny Mooney and set in the hazy counterculture that is 1969 Ann Arbor, the film claims to be a statement about the ambiguity of political activism, but instead is a pretty, empty caricature of the time period. “Love and Honor” doesn’t seem to understand what it is — a tender romance, a comedy of errors, a satire of activism or a denouncement of war — and spends an hour and 45 minutes never getting there.

Love and Honor

C-
IFC
At the Michigan


Mickey Wright (Liam Hemsworth, “The Hunger Games”) is a soldier whose charm is vapid and clean-cut good looks disconcerting in the despair that is war-torn Vietnam. When his dependable best friend, Dalton (Austin Stowell, “Dolphin Tale”), is abruptly dumped by his high-school sweetheart, Mickey follows him back to Ann Arbor on their week-long leave; Dalton with the purpose of reconciling with his love, and Mickey off to chase tail. Both these characters are Ken dolls, each definable by one consuming characteristic (Dalton’s loyalty; Mickey’s libido), and once in hippie-dippy Ann Arbor, their strong jaws and army uniforms give the impression of frat boys dressing up like G.I. Joe.

In an attempt to curry favor with feisty left-wing Candace (Teresa Palmer, “Warm Bodies”), Mickey pretends that he and Dalton are army deserters instead of just soldiers on leave for a week, sick and tired of fighting a pointless war. This is where Mooney attempts and fails to stab at the political climate of 1969. Ann Arbor is, and has always been, a liberal mecca, but the portrayal of the counterculture is stylized and it barely touches the surface of the conflicted furor the war in Vietnam instigated. It’s safe to assume that political activists in the 1970s didn’t spend their days wearing precisely mismatched peasant tops as they swayed to ukulele players outside Ulrich’s, but that’s how the film portrays their lifestyles.

Similarly, phrases and pick-up lines that no one would ever say fill the script. (No 20-year-old has ever successfully picked up two stewardesses by calling them “the loveliest angels” and winking. It just doesn’t happen.) The romantic scenes are laughably bland and lackluster, and none of the relationships have any chemistry. The actors only function as mannequins for groovy costumes, just as the city of Ann Arbor is only a backdrop for an idealized image of summer 1969. The characters all lack dynamism, and any smidgen of relatability is lost in the awful writing, which makes everyone come off as either a righteous jerk or a brainless druggie.

Films are meant to entertain — they don’t have to be gritty, exacting representations of real life. But to relate, they must contain some real human truth, something that ties the audience in beyond the pretty people and idyllic landscape. “Love and Honor” never finds this nugget of truth, and instead aimlessly avoids difficult issues and complex relationships.

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