WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT?
Anchored firmly in the mid-1980s—dated by its soundtrack, its hairstyles, its wardrobe, its lingo, and its attitude—Rob Reiner's The Sure Thing has lost a little of its poignancy but remains a humorous trifle, thanks mainly to the earnest efforts of a 17-year-old John Cusack (for whom The Sure Thing was a breakout role) and the adorable Daphne Zuniga. This refreshingly honest romantic comedy for teenagers came out in the era of vapid sex comedies, offering good humor based almost wholly on the strong characterizations of its leads. Age hasn't been particularly kind to The Sure Thing, but there are still pleasures to be found within.
Cusack plays Walter "Gib" Gibson, recently graduated from high school and on his way to an east-coast college. Meanwhile, his best friend, Lance (a nicely follicled Anthony Edwards), is headed for nonstop parties at a southern California school. While Gib founders in the cold caverns of academia, Lance lives it up with bevies of bikini-clad babes. Gib is an aimless jokester at his college, writing half-assed essays on paper stained with pizza grease and playing wise-cracking games of football in the quad with his slacker buddies. Like any healthy American schoolboy, Gib is interested in delving into the soft flesh of the opposite sex, so when Lance calls to inform him that a "sure thing"—a no-strings-attached sexual encounter with a willing bikini-clad coed—awaits him in sunny California, Gib immediately finds transportation to the left coast in the form of a hilarious Tim Robbins and Lisa Jane Persky. Trouble is, uptight preppie classmate Alison Bradbury (Zuniga) is along for the ride—to reunite with her old nerdy boyfriend—and both Gib and Alison are in for much hilarity and charming character development before their journey is over.
The script, by Steven Bloom and Jonathon Roberts, is not exactly a thing of high wit. The often juvenile humor probably worked better in the mid-80s, when it was fresh, but watching this film in 2003 can be an exercise in frustration. Many of the jokes that I loved when I saw The Sure Thing theatrically just fall flat now. It reminds me of the experience of revisiting an old sitcom that I loved as a teenager but finding it appalling as an adult. And though The Sure Thing is certainly not appalling, it simply hasn't aged as majestically as I thought it might. There are also some areas in which the film could simply have been better: For example, although it's essentially a road movie, I never really got a sense of place from the film. I never had a clear indication of where they were in their journey. But if you have any nostalgia for this film—and I'm sure many people do—you'll probably easily overlook the film's inherent flaws.
The direction and performances are sweet and fun. Cusack rocketed to stardom after this role, deservedly so. He exudes a boyish charm throughout and firmly anchors the picture with his sly humor. Daphne Zuniga is perfectly cast as Alison, and I fell in love with her all over again. And for director Rob Reiner (This Is Spinal Tap), The Sure Thing was a perfect launching pad toward a career in mainstream comedy.
HOW'S IT LOOK?
MGM presents The Sure Thing in a generally pleasing anamorphic-widescreen transfer of the film's original 1.85:1 theatrical presentation. The movie suffers from the usual flaws of a 20-year-old film—namely, the presentation is somewhat washed out, its colors appearing a bit muted, and there's a soft, ever-present grain running throughout, lending the film a somewhat aged appearance. All this is to be expected, and the transfer handles it pretty well. Detail is quite great, reaching into backgrounds. Blacks are consistently solid. On the minus side, I noticed edge halos, but they were comparatively mild.
HOW'S IT SOUND?
The disc's Dolby Digital 5.1 track is a front-heavy affair. The soundtrack has a dated quality, to be sure, and the presentation has lost some fidelity. There's a brittleness and tinniness to some of the dialog and even the music. And the low end is nothing to scream about. However, dialog seems relatively accurate, if not exactly warm. Surround activity is limited to ambience.
WHAT ELSE IS THERE?
This is a fine collection of supplements, spread over both sides of this disc. On Disc 1, you'll find an engaging if low-key Audio Commentary with Director Rob Reiner. This track is similar to those that he's provided for some of his other films: somewhat monotone but generous with little-known facts and behind-the-scenes trivia. I like the way Reiner talks at length about casting decisions and struggles. On the minus side, he often pauses for lengthy silences. In general though, I actually tend to like Reiner's commentaries more than most people do. He makes you feel like you're right there watching the movie with him.
Also on Disc 1 is a Trivia Track that provides all kinds of pop-up minutia about the making of the film. You get an almost constant barrage of facts concerning actor biographies, locations, and timelines. Not surprisingly, many of these facts are repeated in Reiner's commentary.
Over on Disc 2, you get a bevy of featurettes that you can play individually or all at once through a Play All option.
First is The Road to The Sure Thing, the meatiest of the featurettes at 26 minutes. It's great to see the number of participants in this newly produced piece—among them are Rob Reiner, John Cusack, Daphne Zuniga, Nicollete Sheridan, writers Steven Bloom and Jonathan Roberts, and producer Roger Birnbaum. Broken down into segments called Story, The Pitch, The Director, The Cast, and Not Just Another 80s Teen Movie, this featurette is substantive and entertaining.
Second is Dressing The Sure Thing, a 9-minute piece about wardrobe. Third is Casting The Sure Thing, a 7-minute piece in which casting directors Jane Jenkins and Janet Hirshenson walk you through the basic steps of casting a film. And fourth is Reading The Sure Thing, a 5-minute piece that simply has writer Bloom reading from his original treatment.
Rounding out the supplements are some Trailers, including the theatrical trailer for The Sure Thing, as well as Princess Bride and This Is Spinal Tap.
You also get four easy-to-find easter eggs, in which Nicolette Sheridan talks about her experiences as The Sure Thing.
WHAT'S LEFT TO SAY?
Although The Sure Thing is not quite as terrific as you might remember, it remains a pretty good "romantic comedy for teens." This DVD provides relatively solid audio/visual quality and some strong supplements. If you're a fan, it's definitely worth a purchase.