One may forgive the independent comedy-drama “Farmer of the Year” its many faults — it apparently never met a cliche it didn’t like — because it’s just so gosh-darn charming, as if “Minnesota nice” were bottled and poured into a projector.
The character actor Barry Corbin — still familiar as the astronaut-turned-entrepreneur Maurice Minnifield on “Northern Exposure” — gets a rare chance to be a leading man, playing Minnesota farmer Hap Anderson. At 88, Hap is finally ready to semi-retire, selling his farm to his son Wayne (Robert Berdahl) and his hard-charging daughter-in-law Nancy (Michelle O’Neill). Hap offers to continue to work the farm, but Nancy is not-so-subtly pushing him toward retirement.
When Hap, living alone since his wife died, gets an invitation to the 65th anniversary reunion of his Army battalion from World War II, he makes a plan to get his RV out of mothballs and drive cross-country, with Hap’s younger brother Virgil (Terry Kiser, always and forever the cadaver from “Weekend at Bernie’s) as his traveling companion. When Virgil can’t make the trip, Hap enlists his granddaughter, Ashley (Mackinlee Waddell), a recent college graduate whose lack of employment is driving Nancy, her mother, up the wall.
The husband-and-wife directing team of Vince O’Connell (who’s also the editor) and Kathy Swanson (who wrote the screenplay) use the road trip as a chance to see such cheeseball attractions as the Mitchell Corn Palace in South Dakota. It’s also a way to peak into Hap’s emotional state, as he is confronted with his own mortality and the annoyances of old age.
Corbin and Waddell make a pleasing odd couple, the curmudgeon who blanches at dating apps up against the cellphone-addicted Millennial who trusts Google maps over talking to the locals. Their sweet-and-sour chemistry helps smooth over the bumps in Swanson’s episodic script, and makes “Farmer of the Year” a pleasant reminder that young and old still have a lot to learn from each other.
‘Farmer of the Year’
Opens Friday, October 4, at the Megaplex Jordan Commons (Sandy). Not rated, but probably PG-13 for some language and mature themes. Running time: 103 minutes.