What Happened to Bobby Earl? (TV Movie 1997) Poster

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"Murder in a College Town" was the title of the TV movie I watched...
Doylenf21 April 2011
Not as bad as some of these other reviews state--but then I'm not a frequent watcher of Lifetime movie channel so I can't say I'm familiar with this type of story being repeated again and again. It's based on a true story which I imagine has been fictionalized to turn it into a suitable melodrama for TV mystery fans.

KATE JACKSON is the mother whose son gets in with the wrong crowd at college, a naive and wholesome guy who is soon caught up in criminal capers beyond his control thanks to bad company like MATTHEW SETTLE and KRISTIAN ALFONSO. They commit burglary and arson with Bobby Earl (DREW EBERSOLE) who wants out when the crime ring wants him to be the lookout for their latest burning of a warehouse. When Bobby Earl leaves, and confides in his mother, Settle and Alfonso set him up to be murdered.

Slickly produced with handsome sets and generally well acted, it passes the time quickly enough but suffers from seeming padded out to fill a two-hour time slot on TV. Jackson is okay but has been better in other roles. Her final scene with the younger son is a touching one where she tries to put a soothing touch on the sibling rivalry of brother against brother.
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Just Can't Believe That Anyone Could Screw This Horrible Tragedy Up Worse
the_zookeeper6 August 2005
I knew one of the persons involved in the real-life case from which this movie's plot evolved. I remember sitting, stunned, when I found out what had happened. As it appears, I cannot tell you about the case, because it would be a spoiler; yet, I don't think actually spelling out the entire movie in case could spoil it any worse than the company did by shooting it.

Kate Jackson plays a mother whose son has disappeared. She does an OK job, I guess, but she isn't given much support in either the plot additions or the making of the movie. The acting was flat; and the plot was muddied far beyond necessary by extra commentaries that really had nothing to do with the storyline. Maybe it was worse for me to finally view this movie, after years of looking for it, because I've been following the real cases and the shocking developments for almost 20 years now and know that there was more drama than imaginable from which to pull a gripping crime movie. There was so much heartache that followed the actual events that I did indeed lay awake some nights wondering about my friend. How could any movie so poorly relegate the actual tone that enveloped the actual crime? For anyone who really wants to be saddened and shocked, I suggest reading about Edward Swiger. Check him out on Google and do some research for yourself. You will understand my disappointment of this movie.
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They should have murdered this movie...
buzznzipp19959 October 2006
'Movie of the weekend' flashed across the screen, "Cool!" I thought I can watch a movie while I'm feeding the baby. It started out well and then just seemed in the first segment, (after giving away the story way too early) that it started to go down for the count. Shame on the director, for not giving the story the attention to directorial detail that it really needed.

The story was sort of interesting, like murder mysteries are, however they have been doing the same types of stories for years. Because of the lack of strong directing and carrying the acting parts through, it suffered heavily. Not one of the actors were that convincing, except, maybe the father of Bobby Earl (Sean McCann over 35 years of experience in movies and television, should have had a bigger part too!). Bobby was just always a little too happy-go-lucky (Just like an old-time milk commercial)it was just add-nauseous...and I mean 'Nausea'. The writing seemed in certain spots, very weak. Poorly written. The reactions to the events and the actions of others just seemed, very 'plastic' at times too. I think that the mother, living in the mid-west should have had just a little bit more weight on her bones than Kate had, to be a mother of two, with one in college. {This is not a slam on the mid-west or mothers of two or three or four or any other number of children.}

Kate Jackson in one scene at the city morgue, even though this was not her son that they had found, she seemed 'mechanical' even when she was trying to show relief, that the body was not Bobby's. It just did not come across as she really 'owns' the role, as some of the actors will do in different films, different directors too. In example, Kristian has been around the actor's table for many years, and she is young enough to pull off a 'Sexy' female, antagonist predator/love interest, who is mature, but not too old right? She is only in a soap opera, where that stuff is served up for breakfast lunch and dinner. The director may have had a conversation or two with her about her character, asking her advice even. She has been trained in that arena, so it would make her the one to ask. Maybe just maybe it doesn't translate to 'film' as well as one might think.

It is sad with such a good cast, that they fell this short. The camera work, was good standard for a television movie, nothing really above the regular 'par'. The scenery the place that the story took place was a very nice area as well.

On top of it, Kristian Alphonso, was beautiful, in this movie. Although the acting was facetious. She looked even better then because, she just looks to skinny now a days.

I recommend if you want to kill time and you enjoy MS. Alphonso, she was a very wonderful addition to the casting for this story of 'murder'. (**)
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Not very good, but fair enough.
Carlo Houtkamp20 March 2001
Okay, this film is not very good. But, I happen to be a great fan of Kate Jackson. I always hope her next film will be an independent art house film directed by someone like Todd Solondz, or a European project. Somehow few people seem to realize what a great actress Kate Jackson is, who would do great in a film like Happiness, or Billy Elliot. At the same time I am surprised that block buster directors do not notice her. Show a little courage, casting directors!

On the other hand, it could be that Jackson always shows up in television films voluntarily. She is doing a good job and has been very productive over the years, so it is not really a loss. And these television films are sometimes not even that bad. Coming from the Netherlands I have seen a lot worse. I am genuinely impressed by her performances in The Stranger Within, Armed and Innocent and Empty Cradle.

As I said earlier, What Happened to Bobby Earl ( a typical t.v. movie title) is not a very good film. The characters are quite flat and the best example of this is the 'bad woman' who tempts Bobby to walk the criminal path. She is the stereotypical femme fatale, dressed in black and red designer clothes and living a meaningless, expensive life.

Teaming up Rose, Jackson's character, with the insurance agent who is after the bad ones is very unrealistic. His character, I don't care whether based on reality, should have been left out altogether and is just one of the numerous weaknesses in this film. Lack of events, bad plot structure, length, needless melodrama, uninteresting filming locations and bad actors in supporting roles are others.

However, I very much am in favor of the social point that is being made in this film. When Bobby is given a revolver for his graduation by his friend, his mother Rose (Jackson) is astonished and shocked and cries out "What the hell kind of a gift is that to give to a college graduate!" and "Criminals have guns. Criminals and the police..."

I don't think we would see Rick Schroder or Charleton Heston in a film that makes a social comment like that.
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Bobby can rest now. They got him but they didn't get his soul.
sol-kay13 February 2008
Warning: Spoilers
**SPOILERS** Film about a mothers Mrs.Rose Earl, Kate Jackson, quest to find her missing son Bobby, Drew Ebersole,with both tragic and mind boggling results. The tragedy is that Bobby, whom we've already learned within the first two minutes of the movie, was found murdered and buried in a shallow grave on the Jameson Farm just outside the town of Greenville. What was so mind boggling about all this is how Bobby got himself into the situation that he found himself in that lead to his death.

Being accepted by Manning Collage Bobby Earl together with his mom Rose older brother Michael, Neal Huff, and old man Mr. Earl, Sean McCann, couldn't have been happier with Bobby being the first member of the Earl can to even attend collage. Traveling some 90 miles from his hometown of Munhall Pa. Bobby thought that collage life would be a great opportunity for him in that he'll not only get a higher education but meet people from the upper crust of society who can open doors for him, in the world of business, in the future. What Bobby got was being corrupted by his friends and driven to a dark and lonely place out in the country to be brutally murdered by one of them.

Being introduced to Tom Stahl, Matthew Settle, at a frat get-together the two young men hit it off right away with Bobby becoming infatuated with his new friend and later roommate at collage. Tom not only gets Bobby into the exclusive collage fraternity but later introduces him to his girlfriend, who's some fifteen years his junior, the sexy Greenville health club manager Chelsea Coals, Kristian Alfonso.

It soon turns out that both Tom and Chelsea are somehow using the naive young man to rob the collage's electronic and computer equipment. This is done with Tom not only guaranteeing the by now confused and guilt-ridden Bobby that what he's doing is all right, the insurance will pay for it Tom tells Bobby, but goes along for the ride or robberies. Getting more brazen with each success, or robbery, Tom soon decides to use the by now zombie-like Bobby to set fire to the warehouse that Chelsea kept all her financial records! It turns out that Chelsea has been embezzling her boss and co-owner of the health club Dr. Landers,Dough Lennox, who's about to report her to the police. The arson of Chelsea's warehouse was such a blotched job that Chelsea had insurance investigator Jack Dietrick, Gary Basaraba, breathing down her neck before the flames even died down.

Bobby who by now had broken from his friends Tom & Chelsea, by refusing to participate in the arson fire, has gone back home to his family in Munhall and confessed to his mom what he did in his participation with Tom in the string of robberies back in Manning. Making a deal with the Greenville police and D.A to expose the Tom Stahl/Chelsea Coal crime ring Bobby ended up signing his own death certificate. Bobby by then knew what a bunch of lowlife criminals Tom & Chelsea were but what he didn't know was how far they would go to keep him from talking to the police! As far as murdering him!

You can't be too critical of the movie "Murder in a Collage Town" or "What Hapened to Bobby Earl" in that, from what I've read about it, it's based on a true story. Drew Ebersole does come across very sympathetic in his innocence but also comes across a bit of a mindless jerk in not realizing what he's being let into by both Tom and later the dragon lady-like Chelsea Coals. Kate Jackson as Bobby's mom does a credible job in her turning the entire town of Greenville upside down in order to find, dead or alive, her lost son.

The end of the movie more then makes up for all its bad plotting and confusing, in that Tom after all he did is not only allowed to stay at Manning but graduates as well, storyline in it. The heart to heart talk that Rose Earl has with her surviving and older son Michael will really move you in how her love for him was just as great as that for Bobby. Which I suspect that Michael, in how much he both loved both Rose and his brother Booby, knew all along.
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Three Cheers for Bobby Earl
Holly-135 November 1998
Poor Bobby. If only he went to a two year technical school.
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It Sucks
HotPink28 September 1998
It blows because of Kate Jackson's lack-lustre presence, and limited "acting" ability. The premise of the show is a cliche of a cliche. The show is a very helpful sleeping-aid. Who needs melatonin with dreck like this?
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A college boy gets into the wrong crowd, and ends up dead. Whodunnit?
spandi23 March 1999
Warning: Spoilers
This movie was very good, especially if you are a Days of Our Lives fan, in search of Kristian Alfonso. This was a very enjoyable movie about a young man's downfall, and his mother's endless search for him. Watch and see!
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This was a good movie
JENNY508 December 1998
unlike the previous commenter, who obviously has no taste in the fine acting ability that Kate has, this movie is good. Kate never would have promoted the movie if she didn't feel it was worthwhile.
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Star power saves terrible film
guilfisher-115 April 2007
Yes, without Kate Jackson in this, it would have been a total bomb. She saves the day with some fine acting and human emotions, which seems to be lacking in the rest of the cast. Worst of the actors are Kristian Alfonso. made up like a hooker, with over the top makeup and acting as a control freak and Drew Ebersole as Bobby Earl who goes around in the movie like he's out in space somewhere. Looking like a blinded deer most of the time, he doesn't make his role interesting enough to care about what happens to him. Then there's pretty boy Matthew Settle as the best friend who seems to be crying most of the time and Henriette Ivanans as the girl friend who is so plain and dull you wonder why anyone would want to bed the tramp. Originally titled WHAT HAPPENED TO BOBBY EARL? to give some lure as of BABY JANE and SWEET CHARLOTTE, this is far from that classic. Directed by Bradley Wigor who had the sense to leave Kate do her job and written by Joseph Maurer who must have been crazed to the casting of this loser. I give it 2 stars for Kate Jackson and Kate Jackson.
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