John Travolta’s last two films, “Gotti” and “Speed Kills,” both boast scores of 0 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. And it looks like somebody’s angling for a third!
In “Trading Paint,” the actor plays a fading race car driver in Talladega, Ala., called Sam “The Man” Munroe. His son Cam (Toby Sebastian), also a driver, races on his team. But when they have a falling out, Cam starts driving for Sam’s rival, Bob Linsky.
When Cam tells him the news, Travolta’s Sam takes a pregnant pause and then shoves stacks of papers off his desk. It is hilarious.
Betrayed and angry, Sam hops back in the driver’s seat after six years on the sidelines to kick his son’s butt. “Hell, you can’t write this any better!” says one of the track commentators. Yes, you can.
The script — with intersecting stories of a struggling family and a lion-in-winter sports narrative — feels as well-trod as racetrack dirt. Sure, there’s potential for pleasure in an old story done right, but Travolta croaking out a Southern accent as he overplays his outbursts and emotional reconciliations doesn’t qualify.
Singer Shania Twain plays Travolta’s love interest, Becca. Twain has an unblinkingly wholesome style that don’t impress me much. The pair has no spark, so all their tearful admissions of love are unmoving.
But what really pumps the brakes are the racing scenes. Replicating the perils of live NASCAR is always a challenge for filmmakers, not to mention that, unlike “The Fast and the Furious,” these cars just go around in circles. But it is possible to create suspense with clever, gutsy shots and strong performances behind the wheel. The races of “Trading Paint,” however, are as exciting as a Ford Taurus trying to parallel park.