Well, as with the previously-reviewed-this-week Corey Feldman-fronted Round Trip to Heaven, this Down Under car flick is a doublesploitation whammy: we all know what makes a carsploitation movie . . . but what makes a teensploitation movie, now that’s the question.
Well, for me, it’s when your film has 30-year-old teenagers — in this case, our stars of Matt Lattanzi, Loryn Locklin, Grant Heslov, and Billy Morrissette (Severed Ties!), who were 30 and 21, 26, 27, respectively — and no matter the filmmaker’s intentions — you’ve made a teensplotation movie. Yes, even when your film is loaded with classic cars, hot-rods, and muscle cars and qualifies it as a carsploitation movie.
The filmmaker in this case . . . isn’t the usual, expected filmmaker. No, it’s not Albert Pyun. It’s not David DeCoteau. It’s not Fred Olen Ray.
It’s Stephens Sommers.
Yes. The same Stephen Sommers — in his writing and directing debut — known as the writer, director, and producer behind The Mummy, The Scorpion King, and G.I Joe franchises. Meanwhile, actor Grant Heslov became a producing partner with George Clooney and received four Oscar nods and one win (2012’s Argo).
As with the countless teen movies dating back to the ’50s, we have a gaggle of teens who — in addition to not being teenagers and are far more intelligent and resourceful than your typical, goofy teenagers (at least when I was in school) — work together in the ‘ol “Let’s save the teen center, gang!” plot of old. Only this time: it’s the ol’ “save the school” plot.
Of course, the school will be saved by resident “bad boy” Dylan (Matt Lattanzi of Xanadu and My Tutor) who sidelines between the reading, writing, and arithmetic as an illegal street racer. Dylan convinces the school’s resident goody two-shoes (Loryn Locklin, in her acting debut; her next was the inane Jim Belushi comedy Taking Care of Business) to bet the $3000 already raised on an illegal race he knows he can win — and turn that 3-grand into the needed 200-grand to save the school.
That’s right. He doesn’t win.
Now, the adults — school board administrators, mind you — are sanctioning an illegal, winner-take-all road race, with Dylan against the town legend. You know, just like any school board would handle a funding crunch that’s closing a school.
Look, the proceedings are cliched and utterly unbelievable. The teens don’t behave like teens (as in my Bruno Kirby guilty pleasure with the high school politics comedy, 1978’s Almost Summer) and the adults don’t carry themselves as roll models (of which Almost Summer had none, well, except for the adult-as-teens actors). But we have M. Emmett Walsh (who runs the local gambling syndicate backing the races) and Geoffrey Lewis (our principal) as the “responsible” adults, Loryn Locklin looks great in saddle shoes, there’s no cheese in thespin’ department, the driving and stunts (an old Chevy jumps through the school’s football field goalposts in a highlight) are top notch, and the ’50s and ’60s tunes (Elvis, Del Shannon, the Platters, Danny and the Juniors; but Tangerine Dream scores) give this homage to Sommers’s old hometown days of growing up in St. Cloud, Minnesota (where this was shot), a nice retro-juvenile delinquency flick of the ’50s feel — which is the whole point of the movie. And a fun movie to watch.
Sure, even at a production budget at $800,000, this car flick still bombed in the U.S., but cleaned up in the overseas markets — especially in Australia — where it made $7 million, courtesy of Matt Lattanzi then being the first husband of singer-actress Olivia Newton John. Meanwhile, in the U.S., it was HBO and Cinemax to the rescue, turning it into a cult classic.
Oh, and by the way, don’t confuse Catch Me If You Can with the other Aussie car flick we’ve reviewed, Freedom, which stars Matt Lattazni lookalike Jon Blake. That’s a whole other, carsploitation movie (and carries the soundalike “grab it while you can” tagline on its one-sheets).
We had this writing and directing debut by Stephen Sommers on our review backburners for quite a while (sorry, Steve) and never managed to fit it into our two “Fast and Furious” weeks of reviews (HERE and HERE) of, well, Carsploitation films. We’re also guilty of passing over Catch Me If You Can (again, sorry, Steve) as part of our “Exploring” tribute to the film soundtracks of Tangerine Dream. So, we do get them, eventually.
You can stream this really great car flick on Vudu without commercials. But we found a copy on You Tube. As you can read from the You Tube upload comments, everyone loves this movie. Why it didn’t click with theater audiences and turn Matt into the next Tom Cruise is anyone’s guess. So goes the power of HBO and Cinemax endlessly replaying movies back in the ’80s.