**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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