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Flamingo Kid, The

Kino // PG-13 // October 10, 2017
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Francis Rizzo III | posted October 28, 2017 | E-mail the Author
In 10 Words or Less
Growing up at the beach club in the ‘60s
Reviewer's Bias*
Loves: '80s films
Likes: Garry Marshall, Matt Dillon, Motown music
Dislikes: old New York nostalgia
Hates: competitive card playing

The Movie
Garry Marshall came to be mockingly known for his holiday films--like Valentine's Day and New Year's Eve--but he made several enjoyable crowd-pleasers over the course of his career, including The Flamingo Kid, a fish-out-of-water, coming-of-age, class-conflict comedy set in the metro New York area of the early 1960s, starring Matt Dillon as the titular kid, the son of a plumber who finds himself thrust into a world of money and the complications that come along with it.

Though his dad (Marshall's lucky charm Hector Elizondo) wants him to go to college to become an engineer, Jeffrey (Dillon) is enticed by the high life he comes to witness working at the El Flamingo Beach Club one summer, particularly through his burgeoning relationship with blonde, Californian college student Carla (future Mrs. Wayne Gretzky Janet Jones) and the rich and powerful car dealer Phil Brody (Richard Crenna), who takes a liking to the card-playing teen and gets him thinking differently about his future, to the chagrin of Elizondo's pragmatic father character. Family strife results, along with some growing up on Jeffrey's part as he comes to realize that the life he thinks he wants is not what it seems.

Dillon is the perfect fit as the headstrong teen trying to find his way in a new social circle, able to project both Jeffrey's confidence and vulnerability subtly. There's not a lot of emoting to his performance, as he tends to be a passive part of most scenes, observing and taking in the actions of those around him, but it works as representative of his innocence. Paired up with Elizondo as his proud and frustrated middle-class dad, he gives the film the right core to build young-adult summer hijinks and life lessons on. Dillon and Elizondo are just part of an excellent group of actors, including the appropriately dark-hearted Crenna and the hilarious Jessica Walter as Phil's wife, along with some notable small parts for Bronson Pinchot and Fisher Stevens. (There are also blink-and-you'll-miss-them cameos by Marisa Tomei [in her first credited role] and Steven Weber.)

Marshall and his team do a fine job of giving the film the right sense of early ‘60s nostalgia--from the sticky heat of the early scenes on city streets to the luxury of the beachside resort--aided by a soundtrack loaded with great tunes from the era like Martha and the Vandellas' "Heat Wave", Little Richard's "Good Golly, Miss Molly" and The Chiffons' "He's So Fine." Only the film's so-'80s theme song, "Breakaway" by Jesse Frederick (the man responsible for the earworms of the TGIF sitcoms like Full House), ruins the illusion, as it fits better for a film like Caddyshack. Without it, the film feels perfectly ‘60s (at least to someone who wasn't alive at the time), and that tone helps sell the story. As can be expected for a Marshall film, there's a good deal of obvious heart (which could read as mawkish to some) but thanks to Elizondo and some solid jokes, the balance works.

The Disc
Kino's Studio Classics line brings The Flamingo Kid home on one Blu-ray disc, which is packed in a standard keepcase with one of Kino's great visual catalogs and a two-sided cover. On the default side, we get the film's Dillon-focused poster, while the other puts Jones front and center. The poster is used on the disc's static menu with options to watch the film, select scenes, adjust the setup and check out the extras. Audio options include 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio tracks, while subtitles are available in English.

The Quality
The 1.85:1, 1080p, AVC-encoded doesn't look particularly impressive, despite an image that's clean and free of any noticeable damage. The problem is mainly in the clarity, as the transfer looks somewhat soft--reducing the level of fine detail and textures as a result--and the color is somewhat dull, leaving the beach club's pastel color scheme looking less vibrant than it should be. Skintones, on heavy display thanks to the settings and costumes, look appropriate in the context of the overall color, but the grain is inconsistent, resulting in some smudging in darker sequences (where the black levels aren't much help either.) It's not a particularly bad viewing experience, but The Flamingo Kid looks like a film that's more than 30 years old here.

The audio is presented via a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, which is an artificial re-do of the original sound, and like most such creations it uses the surrounds more as a boost than for discreet placement or movement, though some atmospheric effects can be heard in the sides and rear. The track offers up good clarity though, and maintains an appropriate separation between the dialogue and the music. Speaking of the music, the classic soundtrack (and the far-less-classic and anachronistic theme song) sounds good, and provides the only real example of LFE action.

The Extras
Though Marshall is sadly no longer with us, we do get a commentary track on this disc, courtesy of brothers Pat and Jim Healy, an actor/filmmaker and director of programming at Wisconsin's Cinematheque, respectively. Though neither man was involved in the making of the movie, they've done some research and provide plenty of trivia about the production, including the history of the script and an explanation of a major plot device. They draw a lot from Marshall's biography and do a good job of keeping things moving, but the lamenting over modern movie making isn't needed.

The remaining extras includes three trailers, thought not one for this film. Instead, you get previews for My Bodyguard, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three and Stone Cold Dead.

The Bottom Line
Garry Marshall wasn't really making high art with his films, but when he was on, the results could be quite entertaining, and that's the case when it comes the the lightweight The Flamingo Kid, which offers solid performances from its talented cast and an excellent soundtrack. Kino Lorber has brought the film to Blu-ray with a good, but not great presentation and an informative extra, making it one fans of Marshall's movies or ‘80s comedies will want to add to their collection.

Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.

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*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.

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