Thursday, April 10, 2014

Foolin' Around (1980)

Directed by Richard T. Heffron. I could have sworn I saw this movie as a kid at a drive-in as the second feature with "The Buddy Holly Story" but the Buddy Holly biopic was released two years earlier so it doesn't seem possible. Strange. I must have seen it as the second feature with something else, but also saw "The Buddy Holly Story" two years earlier at the drive-in.

Gary Busey is one of those guys I think people expected quite a bit and this movie captures that it was not to be.

Though we should have known. Despite Oscars and accolade, "The Buddy Holly Story" was not a quality movie. Hollywood's interest in biopics was refreshed and that particular movie benefited from good timing and public interest. But "The Buddy Holly Story" has all of the hallmarks of the worst biopics: composite characters, fictional incidents and constant inaccuracies.

Busey, years away from trauma-induced cranial dementia is charismatic, though it's possible that big roles didn't follow from his 1978 Buddy Holly turn because the arrogant bully the public knows today had already emerged behind Hollywood's closed doors.

And so, two years after "The Buddy Holly Story" we have "Foolin' Around," in which Wes (Busey) arrives from Oklahoma to attend a university in Minnesota, falls in love with psychology student student Susan (Annette O'Toole), a wealthy debutante engaged to snobbish social climber Whitley (John Calvin). Fortunately Susan's grandfather (Eddie Albert) respects Wes's grit and hates Whitley because he's that unrealistically creepy slimeball that we have no reason to believe that Susan should see anything in. But that's the way it always is in this movie, which you've seen the likes of 1,000 times.

But usually this kind of movie is full of talentless nobodies, so this one is a little different. Look for what's gotta be one of William H. Macy's earliest roles, playing a crooked bookseller. In addition to the unnecessary and dumb references to "Rocky" and "The Graduate" there is trite uselessness.

Recommended for late night.

Lassie's Great Adventure (1963)

Directed by William Beaudine. Admittedly, it's been said many times, but only because it's so true: Timmy is a godforsaken idiot. He was blessed with Lassie because he otherwise would have died 90 deaths before his 12th birthday if it weren't for the baffling devotion of that beloved mongrel.

In "Lassie's Great Adventure," a 1963 theatrical release that devilishly strings together five episodes of the 1954 season of the "Lassie" TV series, Timmy accidentally falls into a hot air balloon and is carried away into the Canadian wilderness. I know, right? If you were Timmy's parents, wouldn't you just assume that saving for college is just money down a rat hole?

Lassie joins Timmy for the ride, seemingly by choice, which calls into question her whole reputation. Eventually the balloon lands among the highest treetops of the Canadian Rockies -- a great place to spot the lost boy and dog. Instead, Timmy decides to wander all over the place, showing off expert Boy Scout skills such as knot tying, fishing, and creating the second act of the movie -- really anything other than knowing he should probably just stay put.

An IMDB review comments, "There is no bad language or anything like that. We also enjoyed the action and wonderful nature scenes." I also enjoyed the action, particularly the scene in which Timmy beats a wild boar to death with a log, slaughters the corpse with his Boy Scout knife and roasts it over an open fire. This really happens and if you don't believe me, now you have to see this "movie."

However, there are really no nature scenes to speak of. Because this is just strung together TV episodes, a miserable amount of its supposed "outdoor" scenes are filmed on a studio soundstage. A few actual outdoor locations were used for scenes that use horses, helicopters and Richard Kiel (who would later play the assassin "Jaws" in James Bond movies). Kiel wears dark makeup in his role as Chinook Pete, a mentally unstable Native American. In a long standing Hollywood tradition, Chinook Pete is treated insensitively and disgracefully, so there's that to be said for this family film.

Recommended for fans of dumb kids.