What Happened to This Movie?
Rose Earl (Kate Jackson) is proud of her sons Bobby (Drew Ebersole) and Michael (Neal Huff) having raised them to be decent young men who work for what they want and she is especially proud of Bobby as he is the first of the family to make it to college. It is there that Bobby meets Tom Stahl (Matthew Settle) when he joins a respectable fraternity who seeing how naive and innocent Bobby is takes him under his wing and shows him how to live life on campus including introducing him to older woman Chelsea Coals (Kristian Alfonso). But when Tom starts leading Bobby in to a world of crime Bobby begins to realise he is getting in over his head except there is no way Tom or Chelsea are going to let him walk away from things. When Rose doesn't hear from Bobby for a while she begins to get concerned.
"What Happened to Bobby Earl?" or "Murder in a College Town" is based on a true story although having read up on the facts of the true story I would say that whilst it uses the events as its basis the characters are purely works of fiction. And that is the problem with "What Happened to Bobby Earl?" the characters are so unreal that it almost kills the movie with over the top performances which unfortunately make you laugh.
Now the basic storyline in itself is okay as we see this small town boy head to college and gets his head turned by a new friend who introduces him to a whole new way of life. We see how Bobby tries to fit in with his new friend Tom as he sees him as being cool and that leads to not only a change in personality but also ending up participating in crime. At the same time we see how his mother Rose is blinded by her pride in her son being a college boy and can't see how he is changing and becoming self centred. As to how this plays out well as I mentioned in the synopsis when Bobby comes to his senses Tom won't let him walk away and the clue is really in the movie's title as to what happens.
But the trouble is that ever single performance is simply wrong on so many levels. Kate Jackson comes across as all "gee whiz" as Rose, overly nice, overly positive, always smiling that it is painfully over the top. But Drew Ebersole is just as bad and it almost feels like they were trying to out do each other when it comes to how much "Gee Whiz" they can throw into their performances. Then Matthew Settle seems to be trying to take off Rob Lowe with a bad boy performance but ends up just a weak imitation. And as for Kristian Alfonso as Chelsea, yes she is attractive but the icy stares and posing in sexy clothes ends up forced and hilarious.
What this all boils down to is that "What Happened to Bobby Earl?" has a reasonable storyline but is dragged right down by over the top performances and unbelievable characters. The characters are so wrong that at times this movie which is based on a true story end up being laughable.