You just might be a bad movie if…
The only pull quotes on your DVD cover are from Rex Reed and Jeffrey Lyons.
And the Rex Reed quote isn't even from a particularly enthusiastic review.
You couldn't even get a "‘Stolen' will steal your heart!" from Shawn Edwards?
"Stolen" (2010) is ostensibly a crime mystery, but the only mystery attached to the film is how the producers convinced Jon Hamm (of "Mad Men" fame), Josh Lucas and James Van Der Beek to sign up for the project. It couldn't have been based on the turgid script (by Glenn Tarranto) or the cachet of first-time director Anders Anderson. Perhaps Hamm, making his feature debut, smelled Oscar-bait in the much-loved dead child genre that earned Halle Berry her statuette.
The film tells parallel stories of trauma set five decades apart. Detective Tom Adkins (Hamm) still mourns the disappearance of his son several years ago. When construction workers unearth the remains of a young boy buried for approximately fifty years, he becomes obsessed with solving the very cold case.
Flashback to 1958 when "Grapes of Wrath"-style salt-of-the-Earther Matthew Wakefield (Lucas) searches for work with his mentally handicapped son John (Jimmy Bennett) in tow. Finding work on a construction site, Matthew befriends a well-educated co-worker (Van Der Beek) and struggles to find a new mother for his boy. As you have figured out by now, John goes missing and Matthew's world is destroyed. Fifty years later, Tom is the only one who can achieve justice for John, Matthew, and perhaps for his own son.
The two stories are obviously linked, but director Anderson makes sure to hammer home the connection at every opportunity with close-ups on shared objects (a toy whistle in both time periods), awkward match cuts, and lots of very sad-eyed actor-y faces emoting the living hell out of their epoch-spanning trauma. The film's pacing can generously be described as leaden. Each scene is filmed with the rote coverage that suggests a filmmaking team so overwhelmed by the technical aspects of the shoot they had little time to devote effort to creating a compelling or even discernible visual design. The film maintains the same somber tone throughout, a dull consistency exacerbated by the excessively literal-minded Mickey Mouse score by Trevor Morris. Every planted insert shot has a predictable payoff, every t gets crossed, and all loose ends are tied as securely as a sailor's knot.
The story's doubled structure is awkward enough, but the script reaches its lowest point in its treatment of young John who is filmed in glass-eyed close-ups and saddled with groan-worthy lines like "Mama's with Jesus now" and "Sure is shiny, Pa!" I kid you not. And the only real mystery of the film (the identity of John's killer) isn't exactly difficult to figure out way, way before the big reveal.
The film is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. The interlaced transfer is solid overall though a bit underlit in some indoor scenes.
The DVD is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. The heavy-handed score is mixed so loudly at times that it drowns out the dialogue, but that's not a great loss. Optional English and Spanish subtitles support the English audio.
The only extras are a Behind-the-Scenes featurette (12 min.) and a Trailer.
"Stolen" is achingly earnest, and I suppose that's a positive attribute in an irony-saturated culture, but even the faintest hint of a lighter touch would have benefited this thudding project greatly. Unvarying in tone and style, it's a rough slog that feels much longer than its fairly economical 91 minute running time.