Sunday, November 28, 2010
While driving cross-country across Route 66 to scout out some future locations for his father's (and eventually his) fast food pork franchise, Beckman Hallsgood, Jr. (Judge Reinhold) encounters a problem. He can't fit his luggage and his name in his car. Actually, some inbred-looking hicks pull up alongside him and start to heckle him. And then one of them pulls out a gun and shoot a hole in his radiator. So, let that be a lesson to you; if someone pulls up to give you any crap, you might as well shoot first because you know for a fact that they're about to go after your radiator. Side note: Don't shoot other drivers, at least until your vehicles have come to a complete stop. Beckman Hallsood, Jr. manages to make it to the next town, but his car needs repairs, and his name is Beckman Hallsgood Jr. --- he is obviously not a grease monkey. Luckily, Johnny Harte (Willem Dafoe) happens to be there, and looking for a ride. And man, that Johnny Harte is cool; imagine Willem Dafoe as a peripheral character in Grease, but with the line delivery he had in Spider-Man, and you get the picture. The dude is creepy. He patches the car up enough to get to the next town, which has a mechanic and, unfortunately, the hicks that shot the car in the first place. And in case you were wondering, the bad guys are named Dink (Kevyn Major Howard), Moss, and the leader is Hoot. So, essentially, this movie boils down to Beckman Hallsgood, Jr. against Hoot? Sounds thrilling. Anyway, Johnny and Beckman manage to fix up the car, but instead of leaving opt to enter into a race as a way to stick it to Hoot and the boys (Hoot always wins) and to prove their love for the two townie chicks that they suddenly are deeply in love with. It's that kind of movie.
Well...what can I say? The acting's not too terribly bad. I mean, if you want Judge Reinhold to play an uptight nerd, then naming him Beckman Hallsgood, Jr. is a good start. Willem Dafoe is creepy as ever, but I don't know how well he pulled off the I'm-secretly-a-rockabilly-legend aspect of his role. He did sing a song on stage, and it was clearly Willem singing, so that's...something. I always enjoy Dafoe, so even when he's slumming, he's better than most actors. The supporting cast is universally terrible, with Kate Vernon doing an acceptable job as the townie love interest and Kevyn Major Howard managing to be just as awesomely bad as he was in Death Wish 2. This was the directorial debut for John Mark Robinson, and it's no surprise that his next movie was made six years later. I haven't seen his other movies, but I'm guessing six years may have been a little too soon for a follow up.
Let's talk about what the movie does right. Well, the characters have names that give you a decent idea of how the characters should act. That's got to be worth something, right? Actually, this movie's bad but it's not painfully bad. It's just stupid. Hmm...are these two heroes going to start a fight in a road house? Is pride and stupidity going to be the only reason this movie is longer than twenty minutes long? Are there only two moderately attractive girls in town, and the main characters have scooped them both up? To all of those questions, I can only answer "mmmmmaybe."
Being a stupid movie, there are a lot of really dumb things in it. Probably the first mistake this film makes is having Willem Dafoe as a supplementary character. He basically is playing a mysterious Fonzie role here, where everyone keeps pointing out how cool he is. Nobody ever mentions what a creepy knowing grin he has; it's a knowing smile, like he's letting you know that he knows what your sweat tastes like because he licked your face as you slept last night. That might be reading into things a bit much, but I think it's justified. But with Willem as a supporting role, we are supposed to root for J.D. Nerdington VI? I didn't sign up for that! If I wanted to see Judge Reinhold carry a movie, I would have watched...um...hmm...slim pickings, these...Vice Versa, I guess. That's just a problem I have with the script, though. I don't want to waste my time listing all the dumb stuff that happens in the movie, but I will leave you with this gem. So, Uptight Fancypants III is about to start the big race when Hoot comes over to wish him luck. They talk a little bit and Hoot very subtly drops a scorpion on the car seat next to Fancypants. I would like to point out a few things with that scene. First, when I say "subtly," I mean "totally obviously." Hoot couldn't have looked more like he was up to no good if he had been singing "I'm just being a nice guy, fa-la, and not sabotaging you for the race at all, sha-na-na-na." Second, I'm pretty sure that I would notice the sound of something dropping onto the car seat next to me. Not that putting the scorpion there would be a fool-proof plan; it's an arachnid, not a killer shark with a taste for human blood. It probably would have scurried under the seat.
I didn't like this movie very much, but I didn't hate it. It's definitely a decent B-movie and it's awfulness is not offensive enough to generate any real hatred from me. I just wish Willem Dafoe hadn't wasted the time to film this.