Sony // 1988 // 98 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Bryan Pope (Retired) // May 11th, 2004
"I'm pregnant. Can you pass the turnips?"
After appearing in a slew of wildly popular John Hughes films, '80s icon Molly Ringwald starred in For Keeps, a message movie about teenage pregnancy. With its DVD debut (courtesy of Columbia TriStar), we find out whether it still holds up today.
The future looks bright for high school sweethearts Darcy Elliott (Molly Ringwald) and Stan Bobrucz (Randall Batinkoff). After graduation, she plans to attend journalism school while he earns an architecture degree from Cal Tech. But things change when a rain-soaked romp in the woods results in an unplanned pregnancy. Against their parents' wishes, Darcy and Stan decide to keep the baby and get married. The realities and responsibilities of adulthood suddenly come crashing down on the couple as they contend with raising a child, finishing high school, and scrounging up enough money to pay the rent and bills.
Ask any 30-something person to name the Holy Trinity of '80s teen movies, and you can bet your parachute pants and Jellies sandals the answer will likely be Sixteen Candles, Breakfast Club, and Pretty in Pink. Sure, we laugh at them now (was feathered hair really the style?), but there's no denying that they connected with teenagers, all to the soothing rhythms of Simple Minds and Tears for Fears. And at the warm center of each was Molly Ringwald.
Pretty but approachable, smart but funny, cool but sweet, Ringwald represented everything most high-school girls wanted to be: the girl next door who always got the guy without compromising her values. Small wonder she is still regarded as an icon of '80s teen cinema.
It wasn't until Ringwald began dipping her toes into slightly more adult roles that she lost her footing. Take For Keeps, for instance. This movie dared to suggest that even a popular honors student is capable of making wrong decisions that result in life-changing consequences. More crucially, Ringwald suggested to her fans that the qualities they found so endearing in her aren't always adequate substitutes for natural maturity. Perhaps that was a bitter pill for her fans to swallow, but it's not such a bad message, and, more than 15 years after its release, For Keeps isn't such a bad movie.
The screenplay, by Denise DeClue and Tim Kazurinsky, places Darcy and Stan on an impossibly high pedestal (promising college careers, a loving relationship, reasonably good relationships with the parents, and a supportive network of friends), then sits back and watches what happens after the baby arrives and knocks them off their perch. Suddenly, college takes a backseat to raising a child, Darcy's high-school counselor urges her to finish out senior year at night school, Darcy and Stan are either shunned or smothered by their parents, and the friends move on with their lives while Darcy and Stan juggle odd jobs to pay the bills. Gradually, Darcy and Stan begin to resent each other and their child.
These obstacles are plausible, and they are handled with the seriousness they deserve. However, director John G. Avildsen also shows a gentle sense of humor, drawing a few solid laughs out of such things as Darcy attending her senior prom nine months pregnant.
Ringwald and Batinkoff are appealing, and they play the material well. So well, in fact, that we're willing to forgive the movie for occasionally resembling a public service announcement. That is, until the film jumps ship and serves up a tidy ending. Just as For Keeps starts to really dig into the unforgiving realities of young parenthood, it wraps things up in a manner so dishonest that it undermines the painful but necessary lessons the film seemed to be building toward.
For Keeps gets a 1.33:1 full-frame presentation, and, while it's a shame that the film isn't also provided in its original aspect ratio, I think the full-frame approach actually works to the film's advantage. For Keeps has the feel of an ABC After-School Special or a Lifetime movie, so it looks right at home neatly framed by the television screen. Call it heresy, but there you have it. The transfer is fairly clean, but nothing special.
Audio is provided in Dolby Digital 2.0 surround, but it sounds about on par with the VHS copy my friends and I rented in high school. It's not very dynamic, but it doesn't need to be. The disc includes French and English subtitles.
The sole extra is trailers for For Keeps, Riding in Cars with Boys, and Little Secrets.
For Keeps earns this judge's respect for trying to tackle a serious topic with intelligence, sensitivity, and a sense of humor at a time when most teen movies were slasher pics and sex flicks. Still, its ending is a cheat and erodes the drama, turning the story into movie-of-the-week stuff. At a list price of around $25, I would recommend this as a purchase only to Ringwald fans. Otherwise, rent.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 1988
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13