The Buddy System (1984)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: A kid plays matchmaker.

Timmy (Wil Wheaton) is the 10-year-old son of Emily (Susan Sarandon) who’s a single mother still living with her mother (Jean Stapleton) because she can’t afford a place of her own due to always freezing up every time she tries to take the test to become a court reporter. In an effort to get Timmy into a better school they lie about where they live, which eventually gets found-out by security guard Joe (Richard Dreyfuss). Timmy though immediately takes a liking to him and thinks he’d make a good new boyfriend for his mother. He starts spending a lot of time at Joe’s and becomes fascinated by all the new inventions that he makes during his spare time. Emily though doesn’t like him at first, but slowly warms-up to him, but Joe is still smitten with vapid beauty Carrie (Nancy Allen) making any chance of relationship between Emily and Joe challenging.

This was the last film Dreyfuss did before his career got put on hold after he was caught blacking out while driving and arrested when cocaine was detected in his system. While he was able to kick the addiction he stayed out of the business for 2 years and when he returned he was all gray making this the last movie with his hair still brown.

I’m not quite sure why he thought this was a good role to take as it seems too much like the one he did in The Goodbye GirlIn that film his abrasive personality worked and made it interesting because it went against the grain of what we expect a male to behave in a romantic movie, but here he goes to the well too often. His abrasiveness is obnoxious particularly when he openly insults Emily in public during their first meeting, which should’ve made any attempt at a relationship after that completely impossible.

I felt that his character had too many hobbies as not only does he work a full-time job, but he also spends his free-time busily writing novels, which he can never get published, and also creating all sorts of inventions that litter his home. I realize people do have hobbies, which is great, but there’s only so much time in a day, so it would have to be one of the other and not both, as you start to wonder if he ever sleeps, or just sits back with a brew and watches TV.

His relationship with Carrie is a weak point. This is a smart guy, so what did he see in a clearly dim-witted woman like her that he would ‘fall in love’ with? She’s certainly attractive, so if he wants to get together with her for some sex from-time-to-time, which is all she seemed interested in anyways, then great, but I didn’t see what else she offered him especially intellectually that would make him want to be with her for anything more than an occasional tryst. If anything he’d should’ve found her boring, as the viewer certainly does, and it shouldn’t have taken him moving in with her to finally figure this out.

Sarandon is excellent, but I didn’t like the way her character literally jumps into bed with Joe the minute she mellowed on him. Having her frosty towards him made for an intriguing dynamic, and in a lot ways he deserved it, and the film should’ve played this up a bit longer. The sexual aspect, where they go to bed only for it not to go well, so they decided just to remain friends, doesn’t work. Usually people remain friends because one or both aren’t interested in it getting sexual, but rarely does it happen in reverse, so the film should’ve kept it realistic and not even bothered to throw in the sex angle at all.

As for Wheaton I enjoyed seeing a kid portrayed in a believable way where they aren’t just put into the story to say adorable, cutesy things, but instead shown, despite his young age, to be quite perceptive and aware of what’s going on. I did though have a hard time understanding why he got so enamored with Joe so quickly as he meets him for a half-minute and then immediately bonds with him and having him already familiar with Joe would’ve made more sense.

Overall, despite the blemishes, I did enjoy it on a non-think level. A lot of the credit goes to screenwriter Mary Agnes Donoghue, as she shows a good ability for understanding people living a working-class lifestyle and the inner struggles and insecurities that they face, which is the one thing that helps this movie stand-out.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: January 20 1984

Runtime: 1 Hour 50 Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Glenn Jordan

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: VHS

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