Picks and Pans Review: Fandango
Screenwriter-director Kevin Reynolds, a Steven Spielberg protégé, makes his feature debut with this intermittently funny movie about five Texas frat brats who finish college in 1971 and decide it's time for an inebriated pilgrimage across the desert. What follows is a sodden celebration of wild-oats sowing, car stealing, treasure hunting and bond sharing among serious drinking-buddies. Kevin Costner (the suicide victim in The Big Chill, who ended up in the outtakes) is the group's leader—a con man who can no longer avoid a draft notice. Costner does seem as if he could talk a riled-up rattler out of his fangs—he has an easy charm and, for a Southern California native, a not-too-affected Texas twang. Sam Robards (son of Jason, and Lauren Bacall) sensitively portrays the group's other draftee, who breaks up disastrously with his fiancee—"She was at her shower, so I told her dad." Judd (The Breakfast Club) Nelson is the group's car owner and odd man out, a hysterical ROTC "weenie." Nelson overdoes his fits of pique—his growling and nostril flaring are grating. Chuck Bush (whom Reynolds discovered in a 7-Eleven) is a 365-pound Belushi-type slob who aspires to the ministry. Bush delivers an antic performance in a role consisting of grunts, feats of brute strength and boorishness (he slobbers beer while perusing Gibran's The Prophet). Brian Cesak debuts as the passed-out fifth frat brother. On the road Reynolds shows some spark, as in the scene in which the boys attempt to hook Nelson's inoperable Caddy to a passing freight train. Too often, though, Reynolds' direction is unfunny and redundant. The boys compulsively moon passersby, for instance. Things get downright sappy, too: Costner dreams about a young blonde romping in a field of purple wildflowers. Fandango's real problem is that it doesn't know what to be—a love story? an antiwar statement? a socially conscious Animal House II? Stranded in the desert, Costner drawls, "Going nowhere is the privilege of youth." It is not, however, a privilege long afforded to young movie directors. (PG)
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