A Movie A Day: THE SURE THING (1985)
Excuse me, won’t you? I have to go kick the shit out of someone.
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day.
[For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.]
Tim Robbins bridges us from yesterday’s CADILLAC MAN to today’s 1985 romantic dramedy THE SURE THING.
It’s movies like this that make me love this column. The DVD art on this looked boring. The movie doesn’t have much of a reputation. But this film sits comfortably on the shelf next to the sub-sub comedy category of ‘80s John Cusack comedies.
I love ‘80s Cusack. SAY ANYTHING, ONE CRAZY SUMMER and (of course) BETTER OFF DEAD stand out to me… yeah, I even love ONE CRAZY SUMMER… If it was just cute Demi Moore, John Cusack and the insanely fake, yet still terrifying rabid dolphin. He doesn’t disappoint here.
In fact, the film opens with a great ‘80s John Cusack monologue, when he’s trying to get into a girl’s pants at a party, the last shindig before everyone goes their separate ways to colleges near and far, north, south, east and west. I would have used the final line from that in the subhead if it wasn’t so damn long. In the end he promises her a sexual experience so strong that it’d change her political orientation.
In fact, Cusack is so much in his prime here that his presence alone made me dig the flick. He has another scene where he rescues his main romantic interest, Alison (Daphne Zuniga), from a touchy-feely truck driver by pretending to be insane that I was literally laughing for 3 minutes straight. I had to pause the movie.
Butlike I said, I’m a sucker for ‘80s John Cusack.
Basically you have Cusack off East at an Ivy League school while his high school best buddy (played by Anthony Edwards in a completely different capacity from his other well known ‘80s college comedy, REVENGE OF THE NERDS) is in Southern California. Cusack is having a hard time at it, striking out with the ladies, especially Zuniga, who sits next to him in his English class.
She’s his opposite. She’s completely organized, she abstains from all vices, is a bookworm, but doesn’t have a voice. She’s technically profiscient, but there’s no soul. She doesn’t live life, she plans life. Cusack is her exact opposite, hence the attraction.
But he blows his first date with her and in a depressed state he calls Edwards in California, who tells him he needs to come out and spend the Christmas holiday out there because he has a “Sure Thing” lined up for him. Meaning a hot, horny girl that is a guaranteed sexual monster without any strings. Nicollette Sheridan plays the Sure Thing briefly at the end and in many photo-shoot-like dream sequences.
The only problem Cusack has is getting to her.
Of course, Zuniga has an uptight boyfriend in Southern California, so she’s headed west, too and they find themselves in the same ride-share, with the creepily cheerful Cooper couple, led by Tim Robbins (“I’m Gary Cooper, but not the Gary Cooper that’s dead.”) in another great comic performance.
From here on out, it’s about as predictable as you can get with Romantic Comedies. Opposites attract, bad fortune befalls them at every turn and they fall in love on the way to their other social partners.
I quite liked Zuniga in this role. I must confess I knew her almost exclusively as Princess Vespa (in fact she has a scene with Cusack when he asks her what she wanted to be as a kid and she said, “A princess.” I said out loud to nobody… except maybe my cat… “Great. That’s just what we need. A Druish Princess.”), but she plays the role with more than one dimension and she chooses to play down her looks for most of the movie. Maybe that one wasn’t her choice, but she embraces it is what I’m saying. What makes her attractive in this movie is that she’s a real girl, not an It Girl Of The Moment.
Rob Reiner directed this film in-between SPINAL TAP and STAND BY ME (which he followed with PRINCESS BRIDE, WHEN HARRY MET SALLY and MISERY). What a great era for Reiner and while I would count this film as the lesser of the three, I’m more than a little surprised that it isn’t at least as well known.
Final thoughts: The film has an undeniable charm, thanks in large part to the great leading performances from Cusack and Zuniga as well as the sharp writing by Steve Bloom and Jonathan Roberts. Rob Reiner was in his prime during this time period as well. All of his movies have a heart and soul here, which isn’t something I can say about his current run. The movie is unquestionably ‘80s (look at the hot neon pink “handwriting style” opening credits if you don’t believe me), but that just adds to its charm. At least it did for me.
The schedule for the next 7 days is:
Sunday, July 20th: MOVING VIOLATIONS (1985)
Monday, July 21st: MEATBALLS (1979)
Tuesday, July 22nd: CAST A GIANT SHADOW (1966)
Wednesday, July 23rd: OUT OF THE PAST (1947)
Thursday, July 24th: THE BIG STEAL (1949)
Friday, July 25th: WHERE DANGER LIVES (1950)
Saturday, July 26th: CROSSFIRE (1947)
Tomorrow we follow DoP Robert Elswit to another ‘80s comedy, MOVING VIOLATIONS starring Bill Murray’s brother, John, from the creators of the original POLICE ACADEMY. See you folks then!
June 2nd: Harper
June 3rd: The Drowning Pool
June 4th: Papillon
June 5th: Gun Crazy
June 6th: Never So Few
June 7th: A Hole In The Head
June 8th: Some Came Running
June 9th: Rio Bravo
June 10th: Point Blank
June 11th: Pocket Money
June 12th: Cool Hand Luke
June 13th: The Asphalt Jungle
June 14th: Clash By Night
June 15th: Scarlet Street
June 16th: Killer Bait (aka Too Late For Tears)
June 17th: Robinson Crusoe On Mars
June 18th: City For Conquest
June 19th: San Quentin
June 20th: 42nd Street
June 21st: Dames
June 22nd: Gold Diggers of 1935
June 23rd: Murder, My Sweet
June 24th: Born To Kill
June 25th: The Sound of Music
June 26th: Torn Curtain
June 27th: The Left Handed Gun
June 28th: Caligula
June 29th: The Elephant Man
June 30th: The Good Father
July 1st: Shock Treatment
July 2nd: Flashback
July 3rd: Klute
July 4th: On Golden Pond
July 5th: The Cowboys
July 6th: The Alamo
July 7th: Sands of Iwo Jima
July 8th: Wake of the Red Witch
July 9th: D.O.A.
July 10th: Shadow of A Doubt
July 11th: The Matchmaker
July 12th: The Black Hole
July 13th: Vengeance Is Mine
July 14th: Strange Invaders
July 15th: Sleuth
July 16th: Frenzy
July 17th: Kingdom of Heaven: The Director’s Cut
July 18th: Cadillac Man
Readers Talkbackcomments powered by Disqus
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July 20, 2008, 3:18 a.m. CST
I've seen this movie countless times, glad you liked it Quint.
July 20, 2008, 3:27 a.m. CST
well, I'd be pig phucked!!!
July 20, 2008, 3:28 a.m. CST
by The Guy Who Slept Through Everything.
Should have been fired and black-listed as a professional film critic, and I too have a great undying love for 80's Cusack.
July 20, 2008, 3:33 a.m. CST
Even more so if you've seen the more obscure and lesser films One Crazy Summer and Better Off Dead. Compared to them it has a massive fanbase - without intending to be like the older posts being insulting, how did you miss this one? My memory after first watching it was my mum screaming at us when we tried the can trick!
July 20, 2008, 3:33 a.m. CST
Hell, I miss David Manning. Those fake captions are more truthful than any Premiere review.
July 20, 2008, 4:04 a.m. CST
July 20, 2008, 4:11 a.m. CST
Really should be an edit feature Quint!!! As much I also love 80's Cusack at the time I hated him a little because in the space of a couple of years he got to play tonsil hockey with two of the hottest actress' in film at the time, Daphne Zuniga from this and Ione Skye (who's nakedness in the Rachel Papers had a pretty large role in my life for a short time!) in Say Anything.... Git!!!
July 20, 2008, 4:16 a.m. CST
i loved this movie when i was a kid i remember watching it for the first time strait after wrestle mania 5
July 20, 2008, 4:25 a.m. CST
I brought The Black Hole after your piece on it.. Its just as cheesy and great as i remember it!!
July 20, 2008, 4:25 a.m. CST
...in Hollywood. EVERYONE knows this movie. It's the first big hit Rob Reiner had. It put him on the map. Extremely quotable. Really kind of shocked that you or anyone involved with or writing about the business DIDN'T know about this movie already.
July 20, 2008, 5:26 a.m. CST
Especially when Wendie Jo Sperber has her "Oil Changed",what great comedy.Very Police Academy-ish of coarse and Bill Murrays brother is pretty much Bill Murray back in the day.
July 20, 2008, 5:31 a.m. CST
Actually the movie is pretty well known and regarded, just not a hit movie. It got pretty good reviews during it's release and a wider audience on video.
July 20, 2008, 5:33 a.m. CST
...it had a soft-focus photo of a chick, much like the poster above. Totaly mis-marketed. Or a clever trick. I'm not sure. Great film though.
July 20, 2008, 6:13 a.m. CST
by Conans Sword
ill probably forget the name of it as soon as i shut down my pc
July 20, 2008, 6:37 a.m. CST
saw this in my collection last night while trying to pick out a movie for my nephew..havent seen it in awhile.
July 20, 2008, 6:45 a.m. CST
that still holds up. The truck driver madman scene and "Get in the car!" still cracks me up. <br> Keep it coming dude... <br> <br> But holy lord I hated Moving Violations.
July 20, 2008, 7:31 a.m. CST
The Sure Thing, This is Spinal tap, Stand by me, Misery, When Harry met Sally, Princess Bride, A few good men... in the beginning of his directing career Rob Reiner was probably the most talented and exiting of them all. But what happened? Where did it all go wrong? Loved The Sure Thing. Zuniga and Cusack were just great!
July 20, 2008, 7:35 a.m. CST
I was a nerdy teen when this came out (as opposed to being a nerdy adult now), and I remember it got pretty good reviews and was well respected. We rented it a few times back then. It was more of a mainstream hit than the other of Cusack's comedies prior to Say Anything, too. So yeah, I'm surprised Quint downplays it so much.
July 20, 2008, 7:38 a.m. CST
"You're flunking English. That's your mother tongue." "I don't think I want this ride after all. And I think...I think...I'll take your wife...if you don't mind." Very quotable movie.
July 20, 2008, 7:42 a.m. CST
by Iowa Snot Client
"I HAVE A CREDIT CARD."
July 20, 2008, 8:17 a.m. CST
Sure Thing put Cusack ahead of the Brat pack crowd.--Quint, use your Moving Violations DVD as a coaster instead of watching it. You'll get more enjoyment from it that way.
July 20, 2008, 8:20 a.m. CST
...who seem to lose their talent with age. Growing old changes them, and their best films were tied to whatever vigour or vision they held in their younger years. The list includes Reiner, Lucas, Coppola, and DePalma to name a few.
July 20, 2008, 9:50 a.m. CST
I dearly love the Savage Steve Holland one-two punch of Better Off Dead and One Crazy Summer! Yeah, there's a lot of cheese in both, but I love them anyway. Particularly Better Off Dead. My mom rented that VHS for my brothers and me at least once a month.
July 20, 2008, 9:59 a.m. CST
July 20, 2008, 10:02 a.m. CST
is my favourite comedy... EVER. "Gee I'm sorry your mom blew up, Ricky." After that, I remember enjoying this movie when it came out, but not nearly to the same extent as BOD and One Crazy Summer. Except for the drunk scene at the bar... "I'm a beautiful guy... And you're a beautiful guy.." Very funny stuff.
July 20, 2008, 10:06 a.m. CST
...he absolutely hates "Better Off Dead", one of the best films he's made. Despises it, is embarasses by it, and refuses to have anything more to do with it like doing a commentary track on the DVD. He was actually pissed off at the director after it came out and felt betrayed by him for some reason as if the final product was drastically different than what he thought was communicated to him by the director.
July 20, 2008, 10:07 a.m. CST
Oh man, that whole dinner sequence where she gets blown up is priceless. "Fronch dressing. Fronch fries. Fronch bread. And to drink: Peru!"
July 20, 2008, 10:13 a.m. CST
They must've resolved their differences at some point since they did get together again for One Crazy Summer. I wonder if the character from One Crazy Summer was meant to be Layne but since he disliked the movie they changed the script? I've always thought it was weird that he's essentially playing the same guy in both films. Maybe his buddy in One Crazy Summer was meant to be Charles Demar from BOD...
July 20, 2008, 10:14 a.m. CST
by Jawa 007
So these were all movies you owned on dvd, right? How long did it take you to link them together? Actually sounds like fun -but I'm impressed that you can bounce around from the 80s to the 40s etc. Cool though. Enjoying this column.
July 20, 2008, 10:18 a.m. CST
"You know, junk food doesn't deserve the bad rap that it gets. Take these pork rinds for example. This particular brand contains two percent of the R.D.A. - that's Recommended Daily Allowance - of riboflavin." "I'm talkin' to you cordless!" Classic flick!
July 20, 2008, 10:19 a.m. CST
...Savage Steve held a screening of Better Off Dead, and John walked out of it and was pissed off and yelled at Steve for "tricking" him. They had to work together despite this, but John started to loosen up later on as filming progressed and Better Off Dead received good reviews. Here's the interview with Savage Steve: <p> http://tinyurl.com/55al9o
July 20, 2008, 10:29 a.m. CST
A Tom Cruise flick from the same era...Making All The Moves or something it was called? I can't remember.
July 20, 2008, 10:41 a.m. CST
Zuniga is another one of those women just like Sabrina Lloyd who i find hot but no one else seems to care about.
July 20, 2008, 10:56 a.m. CST
... asks the bartender after Cusack presents his fake ID. THAT'S a favorite quote for ya. The whole bar scene with Cusack and the 2 drifters singing "Have yourself a merry little Christmas" is charmingly memorable.
July 20, 2008, 11:21 a.m. CST
July 20, 2008, 11:26 a.m. CST
...one word..."North". Possibly the WORST film he ever made, and the first bad film. In the Comedy Central roast of Reiner a few years ago, one of the more popular lines was "...and then came North...". Oh, and Quint, as some others have said, it's really odd that you perceive this film as having little good "word of mouth" about it. For about a decade after it came out, it was widely considered to be one the the best teen comedies of the '80s, and an equal in the pantheon of great early Reiner films. Definitely better received critically than either of the Steve Savage films. (I've always considered this one and "Better off Dead" to be basically interchangeable.) Sort of weird what another 10 years and a string of awful Reiner films will do to a films reputation...
July 20, 2008, 11:27 a.m. CST
Yup, that's the funniest part of the whole movie. "a trough of spritzer and a beer for cowboy-guy."
July 20, 2008, 11:40 a.m. CST
by Thunderbolt Ross
I didn't think that was a well-loved or even remembered flick.
July 20, 2008, 12:19 p.m. CST
by Tipsy McStagger
Completely watchable after all this time, with no bad 80's aftertaste.
July 20, 2008, 12:30 p.m. CST
If anything, I thought this film was overrated. Decent, I liked it, but not a great film. <p><p>Better off Dead and One Crazy Summer were both hysterical, primarily due to Savage Steve Holland controlling the helm (Where's the Eek the Cat DVD release?) <p><p> Never a big fan of Say Anything, but I did not realize it was a romantic drama rather than a comedy when I went into it, so my opinion may have been skewed.
July 20, 2008, 12:36 p.m. CST
That helps illuminate things a bit. Cusack seems the type to be very protective of his work, so maybe he just freaked out at having the movie played without warning him beforehand. Whatever the reason, it'd be nice if they made up and put out another flick together.
July 20, 2008, 12:38 p.m. CST
there are some funny scenes in Say Anything. Pretty much every time Lili Taylor goes off on her ex-boyfriend. The scene out in front of the 7-11 or gas station or whatever it was. It's not Savage Steve craziness funny, but I still get a good chuckle out of it.
July 20, 2008, 1:07 p.m. CST
Next to Say Anything, this is probably Cusack's biggest 80's hit. Bigger than Better off Dead and One Crazy Summer, at any rate.
July 20, 2008, 1:07 p.m. CST
cusack, ben and jerry stiller, robert logia AND keith david. can't go wrong.
July 20, 2008, 1:37 p.m. CST
i want to touch ms vespa. always had a thing her. dont know why.she not that good of an actress.i actually think joan rivers as teh faux r2d2 was a better performance in spaceballs.
July 20, 2008, 1:43 p.m. CST
But I wish we'd get more movies like Gross Point Blank or High Fidelity from him. Would be great to see him team up with Cameron Crowe again.
July 20, 2008, 1:56 p.m. CST
Being a John Cusack fan and not seeing this movie is a bit like being an Orson Welles fan and not knowing Citizen Kane! ok this movie is predictable but rom coms are like bruce willis movies.the couple have to get together in the same way that If the bad guy doesn't die then whats the point. The sure thing for me is second only to the goodbye girl as a modern(for it's time) throwback to the 30's classics like it happened one night or shop around the corner. i've always loved this movie.partly cause when i was 14 i was hopelessly in love with a half spanish girl who resembled daphne zuniga, with whom I also had to contrive a fake date.she didn't get mad, she just went off with my friend. I have even used the shakespeare line as a chat up line for a girl that thankfully turned out to love the movie.anyway at least you can get a decentish dvd of this when the goodbye girl is not even available in my home country.i should point out also that what ever happened to daphne zuniga's movie career. She is a hell of a better actor than countless others who had decent runs. Anyway Quint this blip withstanding keep up the good work.
July 20, 2008, 2:11 p.m. CST
That's what he says on the commentary track of SPACEBALLS. I love THE SURE THING. It's not the best Rob Reiner movie but it's a really good romantic comedy and one of my favorite of Cusack's.
July 20, 2008, 3:43 p.m. CST
thats all i have to say
July 20, 2008, 4:10 p.m. CST
Cowboy: I went to Paris once with my wife...boy am I glad SHE'S dead. I fallout every time I hear that...when you watch his face during the pause, all the misery that bitch of a wife put him through was there.
July 20, 2008, 4:21 p.m. CST
This movie, along with Say Anything, Better Off Dead and One Crazy Summer, made Cusack an icon. "The Sure Thing" was one of his best. Definately better than the "80's romantic comedy" it gets labeled as. Yes, it's often overlooked and forgotten, this movie is better than his his Savage Steve Holland collaborations but doesn't come close to the classic status of Say Anything. This movie is very quoteable, and it oozes with Cusackian monologues, comebacks and one-liners. I think it wasn't that big a hit mainly beacuse Reiner and Cusack were just beggining to hit their stride. Reiner had just done Spinal Tap and Cusack had only Class and Sixteen Candles under his belt. I believe this was his first starring role.
July 20, 2008, 5:33 p.m. CST
This movie also taught me how to chug a Mountian Dew in the seventh grade by sticking a pen through the can and popping the tab. A life lesson that has come in handy many times.
July 20, 2008, 5:40 p.m. CST
. . . when The Sure Thing was released, I'm pretty sure you were playing hot wheels in a dirt hole somewhere. It wouldn't have blipped your radar screen. But to someone in their late thirties The Sure Thing is sorta seminal. Just saying that if you want to accurately contextualize a film you need think a little outside your own personal bubble.
July 20, 2008, 5:41 p.m. CST
I heard you and Beth broke up....
July 20, 2008, 5:53 p.m. CST
by slappy jones
awesome. one of my favorites.best theme song.
July 20, 2008, 6:07 p.m. CST
by Tar Heel
We friends and I often quoted that line while lobbing cold beers at each other in college. As for Anthony Edwards, wasn't he actually one of Spicoli's silend friends in "Fast Times"?
July 20, 2008, 6:12 p.m. CST
"Usually when I meet someone new I feel awkward and shy. But with you it's different. I can talk to you. You know what I'm thinking without my having to explain to you in fancy terms. We speak each other's unspoken language, fluently. I love you. "
July 20, 2008, 6:14 p.m. CST
he was, along with Eric Stoltz
July 20, 2008, 7:22 p.m. CST
by Iowa Snot Client
He directed a few episodes of the no-honestly-it's-a-good-show Ned's Declassified on Nick. They had that classic Better Off Dead feel.
July 20, 2008, 7:33 p.m. CST
This is one of the better road films from the 80's and certainly one of the best Cusack films. I'm really surprised it has taken you this long to watch it.
July 20, 2008, 10:22 p.m. CST
dont mind if I take your wife DO YA?!?!
^ or something to that effect...
July 20, 2008, 11:19 p.m. CST
July 20, 2008, 11:20 p.m. CST
by Gap Toothed TV Boy
of Nicolette Sheridan as the "Sure Thing"? How dare you, sir! 20 years later, she's still hot!!!
July 21, 2008, 12:41 a.m. CST
by Bungion Boy
I think this was originally thought to be a kind of remake or re-imagining of that film. It shares a few elements at least.
July 21, 2008, 3:42 a.m. CST
gets me every time.
July 21, 2008, 8:08 a.m. CST
Suprised Quint did not mention that it was Nicollette Sheridan's, who plays Edie Britt in Desperate Housewives, first film. Damn she was hot!
July 21, 2008, 12:12 p.m. CST
He did mention her. About halfway thru the review
July 21, 2008, 12:18 p.m. CST
"Consider outer space..."
July 21, 2008, 2:56 p.m. CST
... but felt compelled to to shout out my love for this movie. The bit in the truck is comedy genius - "Then what the hell did you pick me up for???!!!" And re: Iowa Snot Client's favourite quote - "no good - credit cards work on a completely different kind of lock".
July 22, 2008, 3:53 p.m. CST
just ruined the movie for me..at least bang her behind the brunette's back...just dumb and made for a lame main character.
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