A life in a small town is something of an oxymoron, as small towns tend to suffocate even the most admirable attempts to make it in the world. Unless you are watching Gilmore Girls, this is mostly the case in cinema, where anyone with any sense flees the small town life for a bigger adventure in an even bigger city. "War Eagle, Arkansas" is an exception, suggesting life in a small southern town may be just the kind of a place, in spite of its limitations, where a happy life awaits.
Luke Grimes, best known from his role on ABC's "Brothers & Sisters", gives a performance worth talking about. Grimes plays Enoch, a stuttering, shy and socially limited young man, whose only friend is Wheels, appropriately named since his medical condition has left him to live his life on a wheel-chair. The film's funniest lines are usually delivered by Wheels, who sees himself as quite the womanizer. Though Wheels may be physically handicapped and needs constant care, it is Enoch who is emotionally and socially handicapped, barely able to speak to anyone else without his stuttering getting out of control.
While Enoch shows aspirations to become a pitcher and receive a college scholarship, he is unsure whether the life of a star-pitcher is his dream. It certainly is his father's (Brian Dennehy), who has had enough of living the working class life with little money. Meanwhile, Enoch's infatuation with Abby (Misti Traya) causes friction in his friendship with Wheels, leaving him wonder if his place in the world is with his friend, or whether he should leave to pursue bigger dreams.
While the angle of the story is fresh, it never really gives enough reason to think Enoch should stay. Even when Enoch explains that most southerner's spend their first twenty years trying to get out and the next twenty to come back, the script cannot even convince itself that life in a small town is much of a treat. Tolerable, sure. Ideal? Only if one's ambitions don't reach that high. Then again, maybe that's the point.
Still, the excellent performance by Grimes works in the film's favor, as does the humor and the subtle drama between two best friends.