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Logan Marshall-Green
Ethan Hawke, Elaine Hendrix, Chris Sullivan
Logan Marshall-Green

An ex-felon discovers a live baby left in a dumpster.
Rated NR

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 81 min.
Price: $29.97
Release Date: 12/24/2019

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Adopt a Highway [Blu-Ray] (2019)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 16, 2019)

Since its founding in 2000, the Blumhouse production company mainly became known via horror flicks like Paranormal Activity and Get Out. However, they occasionally dip their toes into more straight dramatic fare like the acclaimed Whiplash, and 2019’s Adopt a Highway veers into that lane as well.

Due to “three strikes” laws, Russ Millings (Ethan Hawke) serves 21 years in prison even though he got arrested for possession of merely an ounce of marijuana. When he finally emerges from jail during the Obama administration, he finds himself in a world he doesn’t understand, as he struggles to adapt to changes like the Internet.

Russ works as a dishwasher at a fast food joint, and one night he discovers a baby abandoned in a dumpster. Russ experiences conflicting emotions but decides to help the infant as a shot at his own personal redemption.

25 years ago, Hawke seemed destined to become an “A”-list star, but that never quite materialized. While he certainly enjoyed a solid career, he didn’t turn into the headline box office draw one might’ve expected back in the 90s.

While Hawke’s bank account would’ve benefited from superstardom, as an actor, I suspect he feels fine with his lot. Hawke can choose pretty much any kind of project he desires without fears of how it’ll impact his commercial standing, so he takes on a pretty wide variety of roles.

Some of these projects succeed better than others, and Adopt falls on the weaker side of the fence. Though the project shows glimmers of life, it seems too thin to sustain itself.

That comes as a surprise, for the film runs a mere 81 minutes. It shouldn’t take much to fill such a brief span with compelling events and character moments.

However, Adopt comes with a wafer-thin plot and characterizations that don’t boast much depth. Russ dominates, of course, but we never get a firm grasp on what makes him tick.

Some of this makes sense, as Adopt gives us a lead on the Gump side of the street. The film makes it clear that Russ lacks much brainpower, so while it doesn’t paint him as completely devoid of mental skills, it becomes obvious that he struggles cognitively.

At times this choice creates drama, as Russ’s impairments ensure that he struggles more with basic life skills than otherwise might occur. Of course, the fact Russ spent decades in jail stunted his growth as well, but it seems apparent that his low IQ forms the most obvious impediment.

This connects back to the thin nature of the story, though, for virtually all of the tale’s drama stems from the bad choices Russ makes due to his cognitive deficits. Add 20 IQ points to the role and we don’t have a movie, as Russ’s problematic decisions prompt virtually every plot point.

If you consider that Adopt boasts a true narrative, that is. While Russ’s attachment to Ella becomes the most important story element, it doesn’t dominate the movie, so other aspects of Russ’s life come to the fore.

Again, Russ’s choice to take in Ella ultimately motivates all that follows. Still, this feels like a gimmick, so don’t expect the Ella theme to become much more than a MacGuffin.

When Adopt works, it does so mainly due to Hawke’s performance. He doesn’t overdo Russ’s intellectually limitations, and he creates a fairly endearing role, albeit one whose stupid decisions frustrate.

I just wish Adopt came with a stronger sense of story and character. However, the film tends to lack real development, and its nearly magical ending creates additional issues. The film doesn’t flop, but it feels more like a sketch than a full-blooded work.

The Disc Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus D-

Adopt a Highway appears in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Expect mainly positive visuals here.

Sharpness appeared good. A few interiors could be a little soft, but the movie displayed nice clarity and definition most of the time. Jagged edges and moiré effects failed to appear, and I also noticed no edge haloes or print flaws.

In terms of palette, Adopt favored teal and/or orange much of the time. These hues seemed fine within the visual choices.

Blacks appeared full and dense, while low-light shots gave us acceptable clarity. Nighttime shots tended to seem a bit murky, but not to a substantial degree. Overall, I felt pleased with the transfer.

Though not packed with action, the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack accentuated the story. Most of the livelier moments related to weather and highway moments, so those managed to use the spectrum in a decent manner. Otherwise, the film emphasized quiet ambience and not much more.

Within those gentle confines, sound quality satisfied. Music was full and rich, while effects demonstrated nice clarity and accuracy.

Speech came across as crisp and natural. The mix didn’t do much but it seemed fine.

The disc opens with ads for The Phenom, Galveston, and Pilgrimage. No trailer for Highway appears here, and we find no other extras either.

Thanks to a good lead turn from Ethan Hawke, Adopt a Highway remains eminently watchable. However, the movie seems so thin and free from real nuance that it never grabs hold of the viewer. The Blu-ray brings generally positive picture and audio but it lacks supplements. I didn’t mind the short time I spent with Adopt but I wish it mustered greater depth.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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