Our review of Used Cars (1980) (Blu-ray), published May 14th, 2014, is also available.
Like new, great looking, and fully loaded with laughs!
Before he directed Back to the Future or Cast Away, Robert Zemeckis honed his craft in raunchy comedy with the better-than-it-looks Used Cars. Co-written with Back to the Future scribe Bob Gale and produced by Steven Spielberg, Zemeckis fashioned an all-out obnoxious comedy starring Kurt Russell (Overboard) and Jack Warden (Problem Child) in a double role as the feuding Fuchs brothers. Columbia has thrown together a great deal where, for only $3,995.99, you'll get Used Cars on DVD with all the bells and whistles you can handle!
Facts of the Case
Luke and Roy L. Fuchs (both played by Jack Warden) are brothers who own respective used car lots across the street from one another. Luke is a gentle guy who has employed the slick talking, fast dealing Rudy Russo (Russell) as his top salesman (who also has a political agenda). Roy's lot is about to have a highway running though it, and has aspirations to inherit Luke's lot so he can save his business and collect the traffic that will bring him more customers. When Luke kicks off due to a massive heart attack (brought on by Roy's scheming ways), it's up to Rudy to make sure that Luke's final wish is carried out: that Roy doesn't get his hands on Luke's car lot! Things become even more complicated as Rudy attempts to buy himself into the local political race, and Luke's estranged daughter shows up looking for her father! It's all out wackiness and mayhem in Used Cars!
What's this? How did this movie pass me by? I remember seeing the video cover in Blockbuster many times over, though I never had a second thought about renting Used Cars. It looked like a dumb, mindless comedy with no-name stars (except for a very slick looking Kurt Russell). Well, wasn't I wrong. Used Cars is an obnoxious tour de force featuring some of the best (if not biggest) names in comedy! Look, there's Michael McKean and David L. Landers of Laverne & Shirley fame! Hey, it's Joe Flaherty from SCTV! And that judge looks conspicuously like Al "Grandpa Munster" Lewis! If that weren't enough, fans will also spot Gerrit Graham (Child's Play 2), Alfonso Arau (Three Amigos!), and soon-to-be Back To The Future McFly siblings Marc McClure and "Miss" Wendie Jo Sperber! Top it all off with character actor favorite Dick Miller (every Joe Dante movie ever made) and Jack Warden as the Fuchs brothers, and you've got a pretty funny movie on your hands!
Used Cars doesn't invite deep thinking or pondering for its enjoyment—this is a movie that revels in the audacity to have a boatload of strippers take it all off for the good of sleazy salesmanship. The hero of the story, played with slick candor and fuss by a very funny Kurt Russell, has no true moral backbone; this is a guy who doesn't mind throwing a wad of gum on a fender to keep in place, if only until he can sell it off the lot. His nemesis, played twice-hysterically by Jack Warden, is equally as cunning and devious, making this a movie that pits sleazeball salesman against sleazeball salesman. In other words, there is no true good guy in this movie (or, much like politics, the lesser of two evils). Writers Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis throw almost everything but the kitchen sink at the film. Boob jokes, bodily humor jokes, sex jokes, death jokes, fat jokes…it's like a Farrelly brothers movie done right. While the script may lack the true zing of classic '80s comedies like Caddyshack or Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Used Cars still holds its own as a truly entertaining experience.
We've all been through that horrid process of buying clunkers from guys in slick suits and even slicker haircuts. Used Cars lets us all have a good hearty laugh at those hucksters who know how to swindle a man's wallet from his cash. It's a pretty funny movie…until you hop into your own jalopy and are reminded why you hate car salesmen in the first place! Recommended.
Used Cars is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen (others say 1.78:1, but I'm going with what the package reads). This is a very good looking print of the film that sports only a slight amount of grain during some of the movie. Some edge enhancement and other imperfections show up, though they're so minor and brief that there's no worry they'll affect the viewing of the film. Overall, the colors and black levels all appear evenly saturated and well rendered. For a film of this budget and age, Used Cars looks better than average.
The audio is presented in Dolby two-channel sound (the package doesn't clearly indicate the exact specs). This is a relatively clear soundtrack that includes only a small amount of distortion in some of the dialogue. However, looking past that small imperfection this is a clear soundtrack that includes detailed music and effects. Also included on this disc is a Dolby two-channel soundtrack in French and Portuguese, as well as subtitles in English, French, Spanish, Chinese, Portuguese, Korean, and Thai.
I was pleasantly surprised to see this little-seen comedy given such well deserved special treatment. The first extra feature available on this disc is a humorous commentary track by writer Bob Gale, director Robert Zemeckis, and star Kurt Russell. All three of these guys have a hoot of a time watching this movie and pointing out all the cameos (I just like hearing Zemeckis mention Back To The Future in this commentary; it makes me hope for the DVD someday), and each participant (especially Russell) has a lot to say about the making of the film. Pay attention in the very beginning for an obvious and funny flub pointed out by Zemeckis. This track for Used Cars proves once and for all that multiple participants on a comedy commentary track always works better than just one!
Next up are some outtakes that are in very rough form and somewhat frustrating. They are mildly amusing to watch, though no explanation is given for their exclusion in the film. A TV spot featuring Russell and some real-life used car salesman is a strange little extra that's not really a commercial, yet not really a promo for the film. Odd. Eight radio spots include a lot of obnoxious voice over talents yelling and screaming about the movie, plus one spot that features Russell discussing the movie on a morning radio show.
Finally there is a fairly entertaining vintage promotional gallery with ads and posters for the film, three theatrical trailers (though Used Cars is missing), and some cast and crew biographies and information.
You should be able to find Used Cars for a cheap price (around $15-20). If you haven't seen this movie yet, I suggest you rent it first with an option to buy. Everyone in the film plays their part well, and this is a great way to see an early Zemeckis at his raunchiest (like seeing funny Tom Hanks movies before he became a "dramatic" actor. Where oh where are the days of The 'Burbs?).
Used Cars ain't no lemon! Free to go! Case dismissed!
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