Judge Gordon Sullivan went to the optometrist's office on his vision quest.
All he needed was a lucky break. Then one day she moved in.
I can pinpoint the exact moment I started to feel old. It was the precise second I finished watching Matthew Broderick's 2012 Super Bowl commercial for Honda. It's the one where he trades on his role as the iconic title character from Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Whatever wonderful anarchic spirit I admired in those '80s comedies has been co-opted to sell family cars. However, not even sad car commercials can take away the greatness of those '80s teen flicks. John Hughes and company were hardly the first to take teenage life seriously (Rebel Without a Cause comes to mind), but the best '80s teen films transcended their genre in a way that few films ever manage, revealing the people behind the stereotypes that everyone assumes teenagers embrace. However, taking teenagers seriously has its own problems. For every brilliant John Hughes style film, there's an '80s flick that aims for the serious and misses the mark. Vision Quest shows what happens when you swing for the bleachers and miss.
Louden Swain (Matthew Modine, Gross Anatomy) is a wrestler who wants to take on the state champ, but to do so he needs to lose over twenty pounds to be in the right weight class. No one believes he can do it. No one believes he has a chance with the drifter (Linda Fiorentino, Men in Black).
If you've seen more than one '80s teen film, you know exactly how Vision Quest is going to play out—beat by beat. Louden pursues both the state champion and the beautiful girl. Everything plays out inexorably from the premise, with few surprises along the way.
If we're going to be honest, though, the Warner Archives (and most of the other manufactured-on-demand companies) trade in nostalgia, a very special brand for the few fans of cultish films who would otherwise not be able to justify a full release. Vision Quest fits perfectly into that project. I'm sure there are a couple of hundred people who remember this film fondly (probably because they saw it on their first date with someone) and will appreciate this release. On the other hand, there are more general fans of '80s films who might want to check this flick out as well.
Despite its formulaic plot, Vision Quest is a slick piece of mainstream filmmaking. The film hits all its beats appropriately, and looks good doing it. There are the obligatory montages of love and pain, and the camera work is excellent. The acting, too, is competent without being flashy. Modine has always been likeable and he's believable as a kind of teen everyman (unlike some of the prettier or nerdy of his Brat Pack contemporaries). Fiorentino plays the rough-and-dangerous-but-ultimately-vulnerable love interest with aplomb.
Trivia hounds will also be happy to own this particular flick, as it features the first performances of Madonna and Linda Fiorentino on film. Madonna shows up in a bar scene to sing a couple of songs (one of which, "Crazy for You," was the film's foreign title in some countries). Back in 1985, if I had to guess which of these women was going to conquer the world, I would have put my money squarely on Fiorentino. She's brash and ballsy and isn't afraid to wear a white tank top with no bra. Madonna is fine as the singer in a bar, but this was before she'd really figured out how to translate her musical persona into an overall media plan. That both women got their cinematic starts in the same film makes this an interesting choice for trivia fans.
Fans of the film will be pleased with this DVD release. From what I understand the previous 2004 DVD edition was full frame, which is the not the film's original aspect ratio. However, that oversight has been corrected with this DVD, though it's not perfect. This transfer appears to be at it's appropriate ratio of 1.85:1, but it is slightly window-boxed (with very tiny black bars on all four sides). The framing looks natural, so I'm sure it's a vast improvement over the full-frame disc. As for what's here, it looks its age. The transfer is a bit grainy, and colors don't have the depth I'd expect, while the whole thing looks a bit soft as well. The film is still very watchable, but this isn't a stunner on DVD. The Dolby 5.1 track is similarly okay but not great. The music comes through loud and clear and is well-balanced with the dialogue. However, there's not much use of the surrounds, nor does dialogue sound particularly punchy.
As befits the typical MOD release, this disc's lone extra is the film's trailer. It's 1.33:1 framing and degraded picture show the improvements done on the film's look, and the trailer is cheesy enough to be worth watching in its own right.
This film is only for diehard fans of '80s trivia, or the actors. Fans of the novel or great '80s filmmaking should run away. Those who've already fallen harder than Louden Swaine for this flick will want to upgrade their previous holdings for the upgraded transfer.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
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