Paramount // 1985 // 102 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // November 3rd, 2003
"The times they are a'changin'..." -- Bob Dylan
Based on the best selling young adult book by author S.E. Hinton ("Rumble Fish," "The Outsiders"), That Was Then...This Is Now follows the trials and tribulations of rebellious Bryon (Craig Sheffer, Nightbreed) and his best friend Mark (Emilio Estevez, The Breakfast Club). Mark grew up in Byron's house after his parents died and considers both Bryon and Bryon's mother his family. Both boys are troublemakers, but Bryon is a bit more mature than Mark, who enjoys getting into fights and drinking heavily. When Bryon finds himself smitten with Cathy (Kim Delaney, TV's NYPD Blue), a waitress at a hospital café where his mother is staying, he begins changing his reckless lifestyle. But when Mark's wild ways begin clashing with Bryon's newfound sensibilities, things take a turn for the worse after one of the boy's friends, bar owner Charlie Woods (Morgan Freeman, The Shawshank Redemption), is shot and killed by a patron while trying to defend the boys. As Mark's life begins spiraling out of control (with a surprise twist), they find themselves at a new crossroads in life and the realization that That Was Then...This Is Now.
There are specific reasons why certain '80s movies didn't go on to become teen classics. For every Breakfast Club or Pretty in Pink, there is a That Was Then...This Is Now. Starring and written by Emilio Estevez, That Was Then...This Is Now is weighed down by a screenplay that never seems to go anywhere and plot turns that aren't all that exciting. What should have been a probing look at the complicated friendship between two men in the midst of change ends up as an exercise in '80s melodrama. I'm not familiar with the book by S.E. Hinton, though considering its high praise I can only imagine that is must be eons different than this slow moving, emotionally boring flick. Emilio Estevez plays Mark as if he was the futuristic version of the actor's far better portrayal of Billy the Kid. Mark giggled so often that I expected him to pull out a six-shooter and blow everyone away. Craig Sheffer, an actor I'm not particularly fond of, plays Bryon as a fluffy hair pretty boy who's torn between falling in love and creating chaos with Mark. The tension between the boys is never convincing because the two often feel more like stock characters than flesh and blood. Kim Delany, in one of her first film roles, is adorable but given little to do except scowl at Mark and give Bryon the stink eye for keeping him as a friend. As directed by Christopher Cain (who'd go on to later success with Estevez in Young Guns and then bottom out with the Joe Pesci/Danny Glover stinker Gone Fishin'), That Was Then...This Is Now feels lifeless and dull -- there isn't a single mark of originality anywhere in the conception. The only true bright spot comes in the form of Morgan Freeman as a local bar owner. As usual, Freeman injects a hint of modesty and class even when none is deserved. As inconsequential as is all is, I can honestly say that That Was Then...This Is Now isn't a horrible movie -- it may be mediocre, but at least it's got some fun fashions and one of those great Danny Elfman/Oingo Boingo songs ("Just Another Day") over the opening credits. However, when that's the best accolades you can shove on a movie, you know you're starting to scrap the bottom of the barrel. Recommended to hardcore Estevez fans only.
That Was Then...This Is Now is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen with an anamorphic enhancement. Considering the fact that this was a movie from 1985 (and not a very popular one at that), the print appears to be in good shape. The colors and black levels are all solidly rendered without any major bleeding or graying. Shadow detail was fine except for a few instances, and while there is a bit of grain in the image, it is never overly intrusive to the viewing. The soundtrack is presented in a newly re-mastered Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround mix in English. As with most newly minted 5.1 mixes from the '80s, this soundtrack's biggest boost comes from the rock songs and music score. There are a few scant instances of directional effects, though they're few and far between (background noises at best). Overall the mix is free and clear of any distortion. Also included on this disc are English subtitles and an original Dolby 2.0 Surround mix in English.
As is the case with most Paramount catalog titles these days, That Was Then...This Is Now doesn't include a single extra feature.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 102 Minutes
Release Year: 1985
MPAA Rating: Rated R