The Sure Thing

Title: The Sure Thing

Director/Stars: John Cusack (Actor), Daphne Zuniga (Actor), Rob Reiner (Director)

Genre: Teen Comedy

Year: 1985

Watched: April 4, 2011

Summary: Still holds up.


Continuing my 80s (and John Cusack) binge, I re-watched The Sure Thing again. 26 years really doesn’t show on this film. Sure the DVD transfer is a bit dated, and there are little 80s stylistic moments, particularly out in california, and it’s a tad goofier than movies tend to be now — but this is Rob Reiner in his good period. The same era that brought us The Princess Bride, This is Spinal Tap, and eventually When Harry Met Sally. There are just so many good lines.

And the film is anchored by an intelligent script and two fine actors. It isn’t a plot driven movie. We know what’s going to happen from about minute 5. For those of you either two young to remember or with frontal lobotomies, this is a story about a boy crossing the country to get laid, who is forced by circumstance to spend a lot of time with a really pretty but bookish girl (those didn’t seem to exist in the 80s — except that somehow I married one 15 years later). They argue. They fall in love but don’t know it. Events proceed as expected and in the final 30 seconds they kiss.

But the writing and acting make us want to care. How often does that happen anymore on screen?

Oh, and did I mention it’s funny? Really funny.

If you crave more 80s, see my reviews on About Last Night or Better Off Dead.

Better Off Dead

Title: Better Off Dead

Director/Stars: John Cusack (Actor), Demian Slade (Actor), Savage Steve Holland (Director)

Genre: Teen Comedy

Year: 1985

Watched: March 28, 2011

Summary: Absurdist, but classic.


For some strange reason I’ve been on an 80s kick lately. High School nostalgia or something. Not only did I make a playlist of synthoid classics, but I started combing Amazon marketplace for cheap (like $2) used DVDs. Somehow I missed seeing all of Better Off Dead in the 26 years since release (only bits and pieces on cable), surprising given my nearly comprehensive knowledge of 80s films, and that I’m a fan of John Cusack — excepting the execrable 2012.

This is one whacky film. While it must have seemed absurdist even in 1985, now, with the added retro touch and hammy 80s overacting it’s really out there, bordering on Salvador Dali level surreal. But it is enjoyable. In a way it’s a parody of the then contemporary genre of 80s teen comedy, but it’s also a brother in arms. Nothing is taken too seriously and there are a many priceless moments. Like one of my college buddies favorite lines, “NT, big difference” (referring to the textual delta between “testicles” and “tentacles”), Lane’s mom’s cooking crawling across the table, or the goofy skiing-pole lightsaber duel near the end. But with a modern perspective, there’s the added benefit of the nostalgic and silly 80s hair, clothing, music, and even half forgotten facts like: Skiing was once cool! I remember it all too well, my first published video game was Ski Crazed!

When I saw Hot Tub Time Machine last year (another guilty pleasure) I was well aware of all the 80s movie spoof moments, but I hadn’t realized how much John Cusack was referencing Better Off Dead specifically. The plot is fairly meaningless, but basically as silly as the film is, at the core of most of the jokes are real embarrassing situations that plagued many teens — certainly in the 80s, and probably now.

I was also not aware until I looked it up that Curtis Armstrong, better known as Booger, was already in his 30s when playing these silly teen characters. Or that he has played 122 roles! The guy’s been busy for decades.

If you want to see more 80s movie reviews, I also blogged yesterday on About Last Night.