Hometown Pride: A Review of “Accidental Texan”

Issue 26: March 20, 2024

A few weekends ago, a new movie entered theatres across the country, bringing pride to a humble little town in West Texas. Accidental Texan, a story about found home and family premiered March 8, 2024. As Abilenians gathered in theatres across town to see their home warmly portrayed on screen, little did they know the pioneering mind behind the whole story was sitting right there with them.

Cole Thomson, professor of English at McMurry University, is the author of “Chocolate Lizards,” the novel Accidental Texan was based on. I have had the pleasure of working and learning under Thomson and was ecstatic to see his movie on the big screen. In this article I will be reviewing this film as well as acknowledging Thomson’s incredible achievement!

Accidental Texan features protagonist, Erwin Vandeever, an aspiring actor, who finds himself stranded in Buffalo Gap, Texas. As he tries to get home, Erwin befriends veteran oil driller Merle Luskey, who is knee deep in financial trouble. At first, Erwin is very adamant about his need to get back home, but eventually agrees to help Merle win his land, his title, and his dignity back from an antagonizing and corrupt oil company owner. The movie observes numerous themes ranging from chasing your dreams to finding home in unexpected places and people; presenting a grounded film filled with refreshing comedy and characters.

I thoroughly enjoyed this film. I thought the story was compelling and believable, the characters were likable, the villains were… jerks, and the overall cinematography was exceptional. Altogether, I thought the movie presented a balanced use of humor and drama, and I was entertained the whole time. I would, however, argue that the movie was incredibly character focused, causing the plot to seem insignificant in comparison. We got a lot of insight into the relationship between Erwin and Merle, which is important, but that choice subdued the exigency of the storyline: Merle’s oil rig being foreclosed.

I also have a big ole gripe with Hollywood for changing the title. The title “Chocolate Lizards” presents a mysterious and metaphoric symbol to look out for while digesting the story, but without it, the movie adaptation became somewhat one dimensional. The film did pay tribute to the original title at the end (I will not spoil), but I feel as though the movie lacked a deeper poetic meaning because of that choice.  Regardless of my personal feelings, it’s undeniable what and accomplishment this is for Thomson. Although I haven’t read his book yet, I found the adaptation enjoyable and highly recommend that everyone reads the novel and watches the movie!