Risky Business: 25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition
Directed By: Paul Brickman
Starring: Tom Cruise, Rebecca De Mornay, Joe Pantoliano, Richard Masur, Bronson Pinchot, Curtis Armstrong, Nicholas Pryor, Janet Carroll
In Risky Business, Tom Cruise plays Joel Goodsen, the teenage son of wealthy Chicago parents (Pryor and Carroll) who are going out of town for a week. Normally somewhat reserved and worried about his future, especially whether or not he will get into Princeton, his friend Miles (Armstrong) encourages Joel to take reckless advantage of his week of freedom. This tips the first in a series of increasingly problematic dominos that leads him to an encounter with a prostitute named Lana (De Mornay), a purloined crystal egg, an angry pimp named Guido (Pantoliano), a disaster with his father's Porsche, and unexcused absences causing him to be suspended and fail key tests in high school. In need of money to fix the car, Lana's familiarity with a large number of prostitutes and Joel's familiarity with a large number of horny teenagers seems like the formula for an amoral capitalist's dream, but Joel's dreams have a way of becoming nightmares.
As 80s teen coming of age comedies go, director writer/director Paul Brickman's Risky Business touches most of the genre bases: attractive cast, boring parents, effective character-based comedy, highly quotable script, anarchic youthful spirit, at least one house party, and a little sex. What sets it apart from the rest of the [brat] pack of 80s teen comedies is that it also carries with it a refreshing lack of condescension to its audience, some dark undercurrents, and thematic subtext relevant to the era it was made that is there if the viewer is willing to look for it. Both the film and the characters have something on their mind beyond getting wasted and laid, although they certainly have that on their mind as well.
Brickman paints a picture of a teen coming of age in the Reagan era where material success has become the "be all end all" motivation and metric for happiness. The film is not, however, a diatribe against those who treat capitalism as if it were a religion, but more a look at the effect that putting one's entire definition of personal success into one materialistic basket can have on young people. The analogy between the high school students whose sole ambition is to get rich and the pimps and prostitutes is not difficult to draw.
Oh, yeah, it is also very funny, and Tom Cruise dances in his underwear -- expressing enthusiasm by jumping on furniture two decades before it got weird. As oversaturated as this scene has become in popular culture, it is still one of the most effective cinematic depictions of youth reveling in freedom that I have ever seen, and credit goes to both Cruise and Brickman for nailing it dead on the head. Cruise's portrayal of Joel captures both the insecurity and false bravado necessary for the film to work, making smart use of props such as a mammoth pair of sunglasses to suggest that he is hiding/concealing his neuroses when he puts on his swagger. By the film's end, he conveys the sense that he has sublimated much of his timid nature and changed for better or worse.
For a first time director, Brickman is impressively assured. On the technical side of things, he employs deliberate and interesting compositions and lighting set-ups that effectively evoke the alternating dream and nightmare nature of the plot. He also draws fine performances from a relatively inexperienced cast. Almost every significant role in the movie is either a film debut, a breakout role, and/or a star-making performance. Watching the film now, one would never guess that Cruise and De Mornay had never played a lead role in a movie before this. Joe Pantoliano had been working a lot before this, but as soon as audiences identified him with Guido "the killer pimp", they would never fail to recognize him again.
This video transfer of Risky Business fills the entire 16:9 enhanced frame. It is an excellent presentation. It features little visible film damage but no obvious signs of over processing in the video domain. The film has many dark segments with very particular lighting schemes that can be difficult to reproduce on video, but they are handled quite impressively. It has the appropriate look of 1980s color film stocks with slightly coarser grain and less contrast range in dark areas of the screen than modern films.
The English 5.1 mix encoded in the Dolby Digital codec focuses on the front hemisphere, rarely taking advantage of the surround or LFE channels except for elements of the music score. Dialog, music, and effects are well-integrated. It has very little noise or noticeable flaws and excellent fidelity overall. Alternate language dubs are available as a French Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track and a Spanish Dolby Digital 1.0 mono track because sometimes you just have to say "Et puis merde" and/or "Al carajo"
All extras are presented in 16:9 enhanced video with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio.
First up is an Audio Commentary from Producer Jon Avnet, Director Paul Brickman, and Tom Cruise. They offer some interesting behind the scenes glimpses into the film's conception and production, but at times, the thing gets a bit too congenial, with the participants offering little but praise for each other and occasionally lapsing into a shorthand conversational style like people who have known each other for a long time tend to do. This results in a number of uncompleted thoughts on topics that could have been more interesting if they elaborated a bit. Avnet and Brickman are guiltier of this than Cruise.
Next up is a newly produced featurette called The Dream is Always the Same: The Story of Risky Business (29:27). It is a fairly efficient making-of featurette covering topics including the genesis of the project, casting, themes of Reagen-era materialism, the iconic "Old Time Rock and Roll" underwear dancing scene (including outtake footage), Brickman's visual style, the Tangerine Dream score and other music in the film, De Mornay's portrayal of Lana, sinking the Porsche, happy accidents, shooting on the CTA train, changes to the ending over Brickman's objections, and retrospective thoughts on the film's resonance over the years. On-camera interview participants include Bronson Pinchot, filmmaker Cameron Crowe, Cruise, Curtis Armstrong, Rebecca De Mornay, Brickman, Avnet, film critic Peter Travers, filmmaker Amy Heckerling, Joe Pantoliano, and Producer Steve Tisch. I was surprised to see Crowe and Heckerling offering commentary, but having collaborated on Fast Times at Ridgemont High, another early 80s teen comedy that was more thoughtful and less condescending than usual, their insights were welcome and appropriate.
Original Screen Tests with Tom Cruise and Rebecca De Mornay (14:33) is a pretty self-descriptive feature. After three and a half minutes of introductory comments from Heckerling, Tisch, Cruise, Brickman, Avnet, and De Mornay, we get eleven minutes of audition footage shot at producer Steve Tisch's home. The audition footage is windowboxed 4:3 video in a 16:9 enhanced frame. In addition to seeing what the director and producers saw before casting the young actors, these audition scenes also illustrates how the scenes they are drawn from were pared down and streamlined for the finished film.
The Director's Cut of the Final Scene from "Risky Business" (7:24) gives us Brickman's preferred ending to the film which was changed after test screenings at the request of producer David Geffen. There is probably only a minute or less of different footage, but there are editorial differences as well. The new footage is not quite as high in quality as the theatrical footage, but it still looks pretty good. It is a better ending, but I am not sure it is as much better as Brickman thinks. It would have been nice if the entire film could have been made viewable with either ending via branching, but short of that, I respect that they maintained the integrity of the theatrical cut rather than re-writing history.
The Theatrical Trailer (1:27) manages to incorporate almost every iconic image and quotable line from the film that does not include nudity or profanity in its brief running time. The marketing folks must have had a pretty clear idea about what they were selling from the get-go.
The dual-layered DVD-9 disc comes packaged in a standard Amaray-style case with a mostly black cardboard slipcover that has a matte in the front through which you can see the iconic image of Tom Cruise's eyes peering over his sunglasses used to promote the film.
The 25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition release of Risky Business earns its "deluxe" stripes through both an outstanding audio/visual presentation and a collection of worthwhile extras, highlighted by a brief but efficient retrospective documentary. Fans of the film should not hesitate to pick up this more thoughtful than usual 80s teen comedy that launched a nineteen year old Tom Cruise's leading man career.