To paraphrase to opening lines of Love Story, what can you say about a movie in which a '50s Canadian Catholic schoolboy inexplicably decides that winning the Boston Marathon will prompt God to bring his mother out of his coma? That it's not quite as unendurable as it sounds? That it at least features a scene set to a Ron Sexsmith song and a nice turn by Campbell Scott?


Sadly, anyone subscribing to the if-you-can't-say-something-nice approach would have to stop there. Writer/director Michael McGowan attempts to add a little salt to the story by making his would-be-miraculous hero a bit of a brat. As played by Adam Butcher, he's a kid who's happy to take an ends-justify-the-means approach to religion, which makes him willing to perform pious acts so long as they benefit him, but who would rather smoke cigarettes and spy on girls than pray. It's tough to blame him. With a dead dad and a mother wasting away in a hospital, he needs to look out for himself since nobody else is. Unfortunately, the jugheaded Butcher plays him as if he's trying to revive the audience from a coma. Whether getting caught masturbating in a pool or running against a Canadian skyline, he's always begging for the camera's attention, and McGowan is all-too-eager to oblige.

That makes scenes with Campbell Scott, as a renegade, Nietzsche-teaching priest, especially awkward. Scott can invest just about any scene with heft and intelligence, but neither the material nor his co-star give him much help. In the end, even he's undone by tired run-ins with the school's stuffy headmaster and the eventual need to be nice to Butcher after acting annoyed at him for much of the film. He's a terrific audience surrogate in those early scenes, but once the film asks us to like its hero and care about the badly staged, breathlessly narrated big race, it asks too much. Miracles might really happen, but it takes more than a good supporting cast a few suggestive jokes to disguise the taste of treacle.