Sincerity of purpose, the best of intentions and brief appearances by top talent cannot save a real first pancake of a script in “SGT. Will Gardner,” the story of a homeless veteran struggling with PTSD and traumatic brain injury. In other circumstances the producer, director, or star might have mentioned to the screenwriter that the numbingly mundane script staggers under the burden of its clichés, but in this case all of those positions were occupied by the same person, Max Martini, so that vital conversation about the necessity for another couple of drafts never occurred.
My high school creative writing teacher made us all promise that we would never write a story that began with a character pondering the meaning of life on the beach. It was not that this scene could never work, she explained, but she was confident that no matter how talented and sensitive each of us was, we did not have what it took to carry it off. If we had been writing screenplays, I am certain she would have added, “And please, please, do not have your characters recite a poem.”
That was good advice. Martini does not follow it.