Judge Brett Cullum smells some Teen Spirit.
Our review of Where The Day Takes You, published December 19th, 2003, is also available.
Heather: "Brenda said that you killed your girlfriend."
Imagine a world where homeless people look like movie stars, and living under a highway overpass is pretty glamorous. No matter how rough it all gets you'll always have good lighting, fresh makeup, and a Melissa Etheridge song to score your troubles. In Where the Day Takes You the gritty world of teenage runaways in Los Angeles is turned in to a star vehicle for what appeared at the time as a new Hollywood "Brat Pack."
Facts of the Case
King (Dermot Mulroney,The Wedding Date) gets out of jail and, as an agreement in the terms of his probation, talks to a social worker (Laura San Giacomo, Sex, Lies, and Videotape) on recorded video sessions about his life. We get to see these, which serves to narrate as he comes back into his old gang of street kids which include: a gun crazy pretty boy (Balthazar Getty,Lost Highway), a crystal meth addicted pretty boy (Sean Astin, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring), a long haired rocker type (James LeGros, Zodiac), a maternal heavy girl (Ricki Lake,Hairspray), and the new chick fresh from Chicago (Lara Flynn Boyle, Twin Peaks). They routinely run into other teens on the street including Will Smith (Men in Black) in his big-screen debut, David Arquette (Scream), Adam Baldwin (Firefly), Alyssa Milano (Charmed), Christian Slater (Heathers), and Nancy McKeon (The Facts of Life). Throw in Kyle MacLachlan (Twin Peaks) and Stephen Tobolowsky (Glee) as creepy perverts who prey on the homeless hotties, and you have an all-star cast any director would kill for.
My Own Private Idaho andKids did what Where the Day Takes You wanted to do much better, and looking back, this one seems more After School Special than anything else. It wanted to make street life look tough and cruel, but thanks to the Hollywood treatment the film romanticized everything. The performances are actually pretty good, the camerawork is fine, the soundtrack rocks along, but the whole thing feels far too patronizing to work. During 1992 grunge was coming up to the forefront of popular culture, and this project felt calculated and glossy. It had no authenticity, and stood there looking like a self-congratulatory portrait of desperate kids in dire circumstances. There was no truth to the portrait of a very hard life on the streets of Los Angeles.
Anchor Bay is out to right a wrong with this double dip. Where the Day Takes You was previously released back in 2003 on a bare bones fullscreen disc by Sony. We do finally get to see a widescreen version, but the transfer is not greatly improved. The images are murky and riddled with grain. There is even edge enhancement now and then making the whole thing look very much like a release from the early 2000s. The soundtrack is a simple tinny stereo which is sometimes as muddled as the picture. There are still no extras. I'm not sure this even qualifies as an upgrade to the previous edition, but the lure of anamorphic widescreen is strong and certainly a good reason to take the plunge if a purchase is in your future.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
It's kind of crazy and fun to watch this film now, because it feels so specific to the year it was made. I guess when it came out in 1992 I was the target audience, but even then I saw it as silly fluff. But who knew all these people would become bigger stars, or that it would be a time capsule of what films were like during the grunge era of the early '90s? You don't get more retro now than grain-washed images of goatees and tattoos set to a Melissa Etheridge tune. If you're looking for something that says "I love the '90S!", this is your DVD. It was never a great movie, but it is easier to watch than its more worthy peers. I could see slapping this one in for a "good time," something that would never happen with My Own Private Idaho. This one has kitsch value.
Where the Day Takes You finally gets a widescreen release, but it remains bare bones with just an okay transfer. It's simply a bunch of Hollywood stars putting on plaid and shooting up while pretending they are runaway teens in Los Angeles around 1992. It has an amazing cast, vintage alternative rock from Melissa Etheridge, and some nice production values, but it still feels too preachy for its own good. It's hard to imagine that this is where Will Smith started, but here he is in the first role he was given on the silver screen. Where the Day Takes You is fun fluff if you like grunge melodramas.
Guilty of being a relic of the '90s, Where the Day Takes You only works as nostalgia.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
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