DVD Review HTF Review: The Sure Thing (Highly Recommended!)

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Jason Perez, Aug 19, 2003.

  1. Jason Perez

    Jason Perez Second Unit

    Jul 6, 2003
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    The Sure Thing: Special Edition

    Studio: MGM
    Year: 1985
    Rated: PG-13
    Film Length: 95 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (1.85:1), Full Frame (4:3)
    Subtitles: English, French & Spanish
    Audio: English - Dolby Digital 5.1 and Mono; French - Mono

    Whenever a film is labeled as a “teen comedy”, what assumptions do you make about it? For me, thoughts of a fairly weak story containing plenty of lowbrow toilet humor, gratuitous nudity, casual sex, and one-dimensional characters generally pop into my head. There is really nothing wrong with those things though, in and of themselves, and sometimes it is good to just kick back and laugh at the sexual misadventures of a group of young people.

    Clearly, most teen comedies are not cinematic masterpieces, but in all fairness, most are not trying to be. Sometimes a “teen comedy” merely serves as a reminder of friends from high school, a reminder of one’s own disastrous encounters with members of the opposite sex, or simply helps to pass time with a few cheap laughs. On occasion, however, a film so labeled defies expectations and becomes truly memorable, by taking an intelligent look at the really important things in life, and featuring colorful, well-developed characters. The Sure Thing is just such a film, which manages to get big laughs and draw the viewer into the story without gross-out gags and “money shots”.

    Although The Sure Thing starts with the drop-dead gorgeous Nicolette Sheridan (playing the nameless title character) seductively applying tanning oil to herself, the story really begins when we are introduced to Walter ‘Gib” Gibson, a spontaneous, wise-cracking young man who is lamenting his bad fortune with fairer sex to his best friend Lance (Anthony Edwards). As this is their last night before going their separate ways to different colleges, Lance tries desperately to lure Gib to come with him to California, but he remains committed to going to school in New Hampshire.

    Once at school, Gib becomes taken with an attractive, but stiff, student in his English class named Allison (Daphne Zuniga), who he convinces to tutor him. Though there are some sparks between the two, they don’t understand each other at first, and it appears that Gib will blow his chance to connect with Allison. However, when Allison becomes interested in Gib’s knowledge of astronomy during a tender moment on a rooftop, things begin to change. But just as it seems the two are starting to break down the barriers between them, Gib spouts out a bunch of corny lines that he earlier ridiculed his roommate for using, and Allsion storms off.

    After his failure with Allison, Gib finds a trip to sunny Southern California much more appealing, as Winter break rolls around and he is still woman-less. The trip looks better still when he receives a photograph of an incredibly beautiful woman in a bikini, who according to Lance, is a “sure thing”. As we have seen, Gib has not been having much in the way of success with the ladies since arriving at college, despite his wild, carefree demeanor. In fact, about the closest he gets to sex is when he sits out in the hallway munching a piece of pie while his roommate enjoys a conjugal visit from a girlfriend.

    Tired of his routine, Gib makes finally resolves to go visit his buddy Lance in Los Angeles, but having no transportation, and limited funds, he is forced to find a shared ride from his campus to California. Unfortunately, Gib’s streak of bad luck continues when he opens the door to his ride and finds Allison, of all people, sitting in the car. It seems she too is headed to California, to visit her bland, ultra-conservative boyfriend Jason (Boyd Gaines). As you might imagine, Allison’s stuffy, structured attitude and Gib’s carefree approach to life soon has them at each others’ throats again. Weary of their incessant bickering, the bizarre couple responsible for their ride stop the car and dump them out on the side of the road. Tim Robbins, by the way, is wonderfully annoying as Gary Cooper, the show-tune singing driver of the car they are riding to California in.

    From there, Allison and Gib suffer through a series of misadventures, and actually begin to enjoy each other’s company as their characters become closer. In fact, their shared experiences lead them to reevaluate their lives once they reach Los Angeles, and whether being with the people that were the purpose of their respective trips is still as important as the feelings they have developed for each other.

    The premise of this film, total opposites who end up hopelessly attracted, is nothing new (and it was not new in 1985), but the skillful filmmaking methods Rob Reiner employs have helped The Sure Thing age very well. Indeed, in my opinion, the only thing that really dates this movie is the music. Reiner not only adeptly helms this film, but also played a large role in assembling its talented cast, which is indicated time and again in the supplements. As a result of his influence, the movie reaches for loftier goals than the typical teen/road trip comedy, focusing on the relationships and interplay between characters instead of set pieces, nudity, and sight gags.

    Another thing that sets this film apart from the run-of-the-mill teen comedy is the quality of the performances Reiner is able to extract from his actors. John Cusack, in his first starring role, is delightfully charismatic in this film. He is not the stereotypical leading man, but plays to his strengths, exhibiting boundless energy and likeability. Daphne Zuniga is equally wonderful, playing the borderline-repressed, uptight nerd with a good mixture of humanity and coolness. The supporting cast is also up to the challenge, and the thoughtful, witty dialogue gives great depth to the menagerie of characters that we meet. All of these factors add up to a rather atypical teen comedy, but in this case, that is a good thing. As far as I am concerned, The Sure Thing more than stands the test of time, and is easily one of the best comedies of the 1980s. It is also one of Rob Reiner’s best films, which is high praise indeed.

    So, How Does It Look?
    The Sure Thing is presented two ways, in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1), and in full-frame (4:3), and the new transfer looks pretty darn good. Colors, though somewhat faded, are accurately rendered and do not bleed into each other, and the image is nice and sharp, with above average background detail and deep blacks. I did not notice any compression artifacts, and edge enhancement is very minimal. Finally, flesh-tones are faithfully reproduced as well. Considering that two versions of the movie and a commentary track are present on one side of the disc, MGM has given this film a very respectable treatment.

    What Is That Noise?
    For this Special Edition of The Sure Thing, we are treated to a Dolby Digital 5.1 re-tooling of the original monaural soundtrack, which I selected for this review. For those who want to experience the original monaural soundtrack, it is also present and accounted for. As far as the surround mix is concerned, dialogue is clearly presented and rooted in the center channel, and the front speakers project an expansive sound field during party scenes, or when some righteous 80’s music kicks in. The low end is a bit subdued, but my sub was thumping along nicely to the sounds of the Cars, Eagles, and Rod Stewart throughout the film.

    As you might expect from a dialogue-heavy comedy, surround effects were used lightly in the re-mix. However, there were some moments, particularly Gib’s fantasy sequences, and a sudden rainstorm, where the surround usage envelops the listener. During party scenes, the rear channels also provided a nice, subtle atmosphere as well.

    Extras, Extras!!!

    ** The Road to The Sure Thing documentary:
    This documentary (which clocks in at over 26 minutes) features new interviews with the principals, including Rob Reiner, John Cusack, Daphne Zuniga, and Nicollete Sheridan. This comprehensive documentary is quite informative, and deals with a variety of things related to the film, including how the story was pitched to studios and the process of casting the lead roles. Some specific items that I found interesting were: how much the real-life personas of Cusack and Zuniga are like their characters’, and how that translated into a better film; the fact that most studios passed on developing this film; and how difficult filming the opening scene with Nicollette Sheridan proved to be for Rob Reiner.

    **Dressing The Sure Thing featurette:
    This short featurette gives Costume Designer, Dorinda Wood, a chance to demonstrate how carefully chosen costumes can help improve a film by giving greater depth to its characters. Aside from some memories of the casts’ interactions with her, I did not find this piece to be especially exciting.

    **Casting The Sure Thing featurette:
    Running about seven minutes, this segment features Casting Directors Janet Hirshenson and Jane Jenkins, who provide some insight on the process of selecting the actors that appear in the film. Jenkins and Hirshenson are pleasant to listen to, but most of this information is already covered exhaustively in either the other featurettes or the audio commentary. Some of the information offered is also a tad obvious, like when the duo reminisces about Nicollette Sheridan’s effect on the men who workedon the film. Should they really have been surprised that a supermodel walking around in a tiny white bikini stimulated a group of men?

    **Reading The Sure Thing featurette:
    A unique featurette, featuring co-writer Jonathan Bloom reading the original idea for the film aloud. It is well worth the investment of five minutes to see how dramatically different the original idea was than the final product. I wish this strange, but very cool, feature appeared on more discs.

    **Audio Commentary:
    Director Rob Reiner, who comes across as learned, jovial, and occasionally interesting, is the only speaker on this feature-length commentary for the film. In general, he is pretty mellow, talking only when he believes there is something insightful for him to impart, rather than trying to overwhelm the listener with pointless minutia. Although not everything Reiner has to offer transcends the mundane, he does have a few intriguing stories to tell about the production of this film. For example, I was particularly interested to learn that Mr. Reiner became so uncomfortable filming the opening scene where Nicollette Sheridan rubs oil on herself that he opted out and let someone else direct it. For those interested, he also discusses his enjoyment of placing tie-ins to his past films, a practice adopted by many filmmakers, including George Lucas and Joe Dante.

    Overall, Reiner’s commentary is not overly impressive, but does offer some insight into the creative process of one of the more accomplished comedic directors around. Still, a large part of The Sure Thing’s charm comes from the outstanding performances turned in by its stars, and I could not help but be disappointed by the glaring absence of Cusack and Zuniga. It would have been fascinating to hear their thoughts on this film now that so many years have passed, and might even have added enough extra depth to make this a great commentary track, instead of a decent one.

    **Trivia Track:
    A hodge-podge of 80’s pop culture references, this trivia track provides a lot of information about the era of excess and pastel colors. For example, there is plenty of detail about the locations where different scenes were put on film, the music of the time, and other miscellaneous behind-the-scenes information.

    **Hidden Menu Features:
    Nothing terribly interesting, just a bunch of short clips (mostly of Nicollette Sheridan). They are not terribly hard to find, so I won’t spoil the fun for you!

    **Theatrical Trailer:
    The original theatrical trailer is included.

    The Score Card
    Movie: 4.5/5
    Video: 4/5
    Audio: 3.5/5
    Extras: 3.5/5
    Overall: 4/5

    The Last Word
    The Sure Thing is a timeless, enjoyable romantic comedy that features stellar performances, a great script, and solid direction. This special edition release also boasts a warm, spacious Dolby Digital 5.1 re-mix, a nice anamorphic transfer, and decent supplements. The only knocks are the lack of more involvement by John Cusack and Daphne Zuniga in the special features department, and the repetitive nature of some of the featurettes. Still, the movie, new transfer and 5.1 mix alone more than qualify this DVD for purchase, but MGM has also managed to put together a fairly satisfying (if somewhat incomplete) package of extras, which make this edition of The Sure Thing well worth its $20 list price! Highly Recommended!!!

    Stay tuned…

    Release Date:
    August 5th, 2003
  2. MarkPayton

    MarkPayton Stunt Coordinator

    Apr 15, 1999
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    Great review Jason!

    I remember seeing this film as a senior in high school when it first came out and being far more impressed with it than any other teen comedy. Your comments on the performances of Cusack and Zuniga are spot-on - they really draw you into the story. It's wonderful to hear that the studio did a good job on the transfer and the audio re-mix. This is something of a cult classic - a definite add to my collection!
  3. TonyD

    TonyD Who do we think I am?

    Dec 1, 1999
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    Gulf Coast
    Real Name:
    Tony D.
    jASON thanks for the review.
    on the hidden features, herb in his reviews of memoirs of an invisible man, mentions that he doesnt care for them and alludes that there is nothing fun about them, and would rather not waste precious movie watching time finding them.

    so please don't feel as if you are spoiling my "fun" by letting us know how to find them and what they include.

    there is no doubt others think that it should not be revealed on how to find them. so take my thoughts as just a humble idea.

  4. MikeH1

    MikeH1 Screenwriter

    Oct 25, 2000
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    Great review! I'll be adding this to my very limited DVD collection [​IMG]
  5. Gordon McMurphy

    Gordon McMurphy Producer

    Aug 3, 2002
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    Nice review, Jason!

    Tim Robbins' cameo is one of the best you'll ever see.

    Get your emergency credit cards out for this one! [​IMG]


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