THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
"THE SURE THING"
Before he became the cinema's leading purveyor of schmaltz with films like Flipped and The Magic of Belle Isle, Rob Reiner made a lot of smart, entertaining pictures. One of his earliest, 1985's The Sure Thing, remains one of his best. The film follows a well-worn romantic-comedy arc (one that has become even more well-worn since), yet makes it fresh though witty dialogue and genuine insight. Shout! Factory celebrates the 30th anniversary of this beloved comedy with a new Blu-Ray release, out March 24.
John Cusack plays Walter “Gib” Gibson, a disappointed freshman. College isn't quite working out the way he had hoped. He imagined that he would get laid left and right; instead, he's experiencing a massive dry spell. Gib's best friend, Lance (Anthony Edwards), invites him to come for a visit at his school in California. That way, he can introduce Gib to “a sure thing” - a hot, randy blonde eager for sex. (She's played by Nicollette Sheridan.) The eager Gib manages to get a ride, only to discover he's sharing it with Alison Bradbury (Daphne Zuniga), the pretty, prim-and-proper classmate he previously crashed and burned with. She's going cross-country to see her boyfriend. Of course, they despise each other, and their antagonistic chemistry sets off a chain reaction of bad luck that repeatedly hinders the trip. Naturally, they fall deeply in love.
The Sure Thing works on a number of levels. The chemistry between Cusack and Zuniga is magical. He channels his inner Bill Murray to play a guy whose unhinged quality masks severe insecurity, while she perfectly captures the vibe of someone who's afraid to really let go and take risks. The screenplay, by Steven L. Bloom and Jonathan Roberts, expertly shows how these two characters can't avoid impacting one another. Gib gets Alison to open up a little bit, while she shows him that it's okay to express sincere feelings. This is accomplished though scenes that are clever in execution (Gib teaches Alison how to “shotgun” a beer) and dialogue that is wonderfully witty and endlessly quotable. The Sure Thing has laughs in just about every single scene.
There are pleasures in the fringes, as well, most notably the supporting turns from Tim Robbins and Lisa Jane Persky as the too-cheery, show tune-loving couple who (initially) give Gib and Alison a ride. They provide a nice bit of kooky color. Edwards and Sheridan are solid in smaller roles, too. Reiner's direction – unlike later in his career - is nicely unfussy, allowing the humor and warmth to come through naturally.
Smart teen movies were not common in the mid-'80s, but the release of The Sure Thing and The Breakfast Club in 1985 helped to change that. Both hold up magnificently. Rob Reiner now makes a lot of dreck, and John Cusack inexplicably appears mostly in cheap-o indie fluff such as The Numbers Station and Drive Hard. But thirty years ago, they teamed up for a movie that undeniably, rightly has achieved classic status.
Shout! Factory's Blu-Ray has a bunch of special features, all of them carried over from a previous DVD release. Nothing new here, but they're still worth a watch for fans of the main feature.
“Road to The Sure Thing” is a half-hour making-of documentary that features interviews with the key cast and crew. It takes you through the entire history of the film, from concept to finished product. “Casting The Sure Thing” features the casting directors offering insight into how the actors were chosen for the roles. “Reading The Sure Thing” showcases writer Steven Bloom, who reads his original story treatment. Finally, there's “Dressing The Sure Thing,” which has costume designer Dorinda Wood discussing how a signature look was created for each character.
The theatrical trailer is included, too, and there's also audio commentary from Rob Reiner, who offers his insights into anything and everything.
For more information about this title, please visit the Shout! Factory website.
The Sure Thing is rated PG-13 for language and sexual content. The running time is 1 hour and 40 minutes.
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