Director: John N. Smith
Think of it as a gender reversal Lifetime movie. Before Vince Vaughn became synonymous with Wedding Crashers-esque frat boy comedies such as Old School and Dodgeball and after he took Jon Favreau to “Vegas, baby, Vegas” in Swingers, he made a stop in rural Kansas for this lovely independent sleeper film. Based on Michael Grant Jaffe’s novel Dance Real Slow and adapted by screenwriter Matthew McDuffie, Canadian helmer John N. Smith directs this sensitive tale about a father trying to reconcile his own needs and wants in raising his adorable five year old son Calvin (Bobby Moat). Surprisingly, it takes little time to adjust our own filmgoer’s persona of man’s man Vaughn as the sweet-natured, good-hearted Russell Durrell, a Northwestern University educated lawyer who leaves Chicago and moves with his son to Kansas after his wife Kate (Monica Potter) abandoned them a few years prior without warning. Spending his days working on mindlessly frivolous lawsuits, Russell’s spirits are raised in taking care of his son and also in coaching the local high school basketball team.
When he clashes with Noah Ward (Devon Sawa), a player with a bad attitude, Noah’s veterinary assistant sister Beth (Joey Lauren Adams) intervenes on his behalf and after a memorable act of rebellion, the sparks between Russell and Beth intensify until they quickly embark on a courtship. Of course—and this is where the clichéd Lifetime-esque predictability creeps in—it’s around this time that Russell’s ex Kate begins to phone and soon shows back up in their lives, trying to find her way back into not only young Calvin’s heart but Russell’s as well. When he’s given a career opportunity elsewhere, Russell realizes he must question not only what is best for his son Calvin but what is best for him as well. Vaughn’s scenes with Moat are tender and true, making viewers see the actor in a whole new light and although some critics dismissed it as lighter, sudsy fare, A Cool, Dry Place is a predictable yet above average human drama that—while never making us think too hard—touches viewer’s hearts.