By Richard Winters
My Rating: 6 out of 10
4-Word Review: Road trip to Tijuana
Four classmates (Tom Cruise, Jackie Earle Haley, John Stockwell, and John P. Navin Jr.) load up into a 1957 Red Chevrolet Bel Air to take a trip down to Tijuana where they to hope to lose their virginity to the local prostitutes. Unfortunately they end up getting more than they bargained for as they get harassed by one of the local cops (Henry Darrow) as well as taking on an added passenger by the name of Kathy (Shelley Long) who they meet at a convenience store in the midst of a fight that she is having with her husband and now wants to hitch a ride with them so she can get a quickie divorce.
Although the plot description may sound sleazy this is by far one of the better raunchy teen comedies to come out of the ‘80s. The film was directed by noted horror director Curtis Hanson and written by the prolific Bill L. Norton. The production values are high and although not actually filmed in the real Tijuana it still gives the viewer a realistic sense of the both the street and party scene that is down there. The characters are more multi-dimensional than in the typical teen comedy and the action remains realistic with humor that is amusing without getting overblown.
The film does shift uncomfortably in tone during the second half and features some unpleasant scenes including having one of the boys thrown into a dirty and dangerous Mexican prison while another gets hung up in midair by a crane while being threatened with a blow torch. Initially I didn’t like this shift, but the film still manages to keep things interesting and culminates in a funny car chase back to the border, which due to what the characters have gone through, is more thrilling than in most comedies simply because the viewer is genuinely wrapped up into their plight to get out of there.
Cruise gives an outstanding performance playing completely against type as he is nowhere near his usual cocky self here and instead comes off as shy and awkward and even has the embarrassment of being unable to ‘rise-to-the-occasion’ when alone with one of the women. Haley is quite energetic and funny and Navin as his baby faced kid brother, who’s more sensible than the rest of them despite being the youngest, is a real scene stealer. Darrow, best known for playing Zorro, gets one of his better latter career roles as the corrupt cop.
The film is supposed to take place in 1965 instead of the ‘80s and I wasn’t sure why as what the characters go through could have easily taken place in either decade. The title tune, which gets played both at the beginning and end of the flick, has a very strong ‘80’s sound, which seems jarring and out-of-place in a picture that supposedly has a ‘60’s setting.
My Rating: 6 out of 10
Released: April 22, 1983
Runtime: 1Hour 40Minutes
Director: Curtis Hanson
Studio: Embassy Pictures
Available: VHS, DVD