Thursday, February 14, 2008

Racing with the Moon

Richard Benjamin has never impressed me with either his acting or directing. He earned some early aclaim in acting with maybe his best turn in Westworld. Benjamin's directing resume reads like a list of flops and never-should-have-been-made messes. So call me surprised to find that he just gets out of the way of his three leads and lets them go in Racing with the Moon.

Racing with the Moon is about two friends in 1942 who are about to turn 18 and ship out to WWII. Hopper(Sean Penn) and Nicky (Nicolas Cage) seem to be content with working at the bowling alley while waiting for their destiny in the war. That changes when the two find women in their lives. Hopper sees the lovely Caddie (Elizabeth McGovern) dancing one day in a meadow. She works at the movie theatre, but somehow lives in one of the houses on the hill. Needless to say, this will provide some tension later on.

Most of the plot is just recycled cliches, but Benjamin doesn't let that slow the film down. He keeps things straight-forward and lets the film hang on his young actors. Penn is always game for a angsty role and fits into the role of Hopper like an old pair of shoes. Cage gives a glimpse of his potential as the one friend who always seems to be getting Hopper into bad situations. McGovern continued her run of token cute girl roles here, but does manage to add a little something to the part.

Racing with the Moon is still at the heart a sappy, sentimental indulgence from Benjamin. The flow of the film does make it superior to many of the same trite studio crap that was thrust upon movie goers om the 80's. Not a bad film overall. Benjamin's directorial career would reach its apex with 1988's Little Nikita - a minor masterpiece starring River Phoenix and Sidney Poitier.


* It is worth noting here that this was Steve Kloves's first screenplay. He would later go to adapt a masterpiece (Wonder Boys) and all the Harry Potters for the big screen. Kloves would also do the much heralded 1989 film The Fabulous Baker Boys.

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