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Week of May 8, 2002

World Traveler. Bart Freundlich. Written and directed by Freundlich, this project deserves commendation for its psychological cogency and compassion, but it loses significant points for its lazy story and complacent delivery. Basically, we have a mannish boy named Cal (Billy Crudup, Almost Famous) who's a modestly successful New York architect but decides to beat the retreat in search of meaning. Apart from perks like some very pretty coast-to-coast scenery and a near-constant assault of Willie Nelson balladry with assists from Tom Waits and America, World Traveler sustains itself through its fragmented episodes, which feel pretty much like intriguing outtakes from Sam Shepard's early plays. The story is easy to relate to, but with its obvious conclusion it's a road movie in which the road itself is optional at best. (GW)

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