Judge P.S. Colbert discovered you can go home again, but that's really not the point!
"Where dreams have a funny way of coming true." (1984 tagline)
My judgment of Grandview, U.S.A. as viewed during its original theatrical run: Quirky, witty, sexy, and original, featuring three leading actors destined for greatness.
My judgment of Grandview, U.S.A. after screening this DVD release: Chock-full of stock characters, sitcom conventions, and soap-opera tawdriness, featuring three charming leading actors perfectly suited for movie mediocrity.
Not to say the movie isn't still a whole lotta fun!
Facts of the Case
"How am I gonna be the next Jacques Cousteau if I'm sitting in a corn field?—Tim Pearson (C. Thomas Howell, Soul Man)
Woe is the class valedictorian of Grandview High, awarded a scholarship to ISU, but hung up on dreams of studying Oceanography in Florida. If only his family, his friends…heck, if only anyone understood!
"In California, everybody's from someplace else. Everybody from here is from here. I like that.—Michelle "Mike" Cody (Jamie Lee Curtis, Halloween).
Woe is the twenty-seven year old divorcee and prodigal daughter returned home to manage her late father's Speedrome on the outskirts of town. The drivers beat their wrecks into scrap metal, just like they did during the rickety old demolition derby's heyday, but the crowds keep getting smaller, the debts keep getting bigger, and the fat cats on the rezoning board are hungrily eyeing this prime real estate.
"I shovel gravel five days a week on some kidney-shaking machine that gives me hemorrhoids the size of watermelons."—Ernie "Slam" Webster (Patrick Swayze, Ghost).
Woe is the unhappily married derby demon, living for Saturday nights in the spotlight, while subsisting entirely on beer and too little sleep (apparently the perfect way to maintain that lean, rock-hard matinee idol look). It's not that he doesn't truly love his child bride, Candy (Jennifer Jason Leigh, Synecdoche, New York), it's just that lately she seems to be spending an awful lot of time filling out curve-hugging outfits, while in the company of Donny (Troy Donahue, A Summer Place), that leisure-suited, Coppertone-tanned, real estate agent.
Hindsight doesn't require reading glasses. What I originally mistook for the film's wisdom was actually my youthful inexperience.
Yep, I got snookered by this Dawson's Creek with dirty words, but I got taken by a skilled con man: Director Randall Kleiser. That's right, you've never heard of him, but chances are you've seen his work…and if so, you've enjoyed yourself (though you may be ashamed to admit it). You see, Kleiser is one of the industry's most insidious secret weapons, an unabashed purveyor of cinematic comfort food.
• Dawn: Portrait of a Teenage Runaway, wherein Eve Plumb (aka the REAL Jan Brady) goes street ho.
• The Boy in the Plastic Bubble, which coincidentally features Robert Reed (duh, Mr. Brady!) magnificently shouting "My son is not a freak!" at a paparazzi mob.
• The Blue Lagoon, which incidentally scored a much-deserved Oscar nomination for its brilliant cinematography.
But I digress…
For this shopworn tale of three wistful young dreamers swirling around the same dustbowl, pretty-picture maker Kleiser goes to untrammeled Pontiac, Illinois; as lush, green, and corn-rowed an example of Americana as ever there's been. For local color, he's loaded the supporting cast with top-notch talent including William Windom (Google him; he's been in practically everything and is always great), Carole Cook, and a couple of local teen siblings just starting out named John and Joan Cusak.
Parents and prudes be warned: Grandview, U.S.A. does contain bare-chested acting from all three stars.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
In a recent interview, Jamie Lee Curtis was taking stock of her cinematic career. After naming Virus as her biggest regret, she had this to say:
"The runner-up is a movie called Grandview, U.S.A., which is this benign but still bad coming-of-age movie, which is just bad. I will never, ever see those films again. They are laughable, ludicrous movies and I'm bad in them. They're nasty."
While Ms. Curtis is certainly entitled to her opinion, I would like to point out that she didn't mention: Prom Night, Terror Train, Halloween II, Perfect, Halloween H20, My Girl 2, Halloween: Resurrection, Christmas With The Kranks…need I go on?
Frankly, I'm shocked that Grandview, U.S.A. ever saw the light of day on DVD. Fortunately, it showed up looking and sounding sweet—1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, and a serviceable Dolby 2.0 soundtrack—the perfect no-brainer for a lazy weekend afternoon or a mental health day from work. Just don't expect to see any bonus features, 'cause there ain't none.
It's not Footloose, but it's not guilty either.
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