Picks and Pans Review: 1969

updated 11/28/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/28/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

Remember that year of Woodstock, antiwar protest and Richard Nixon's inauguration? Writer Ernest (On Golden Pond, Sweethearts Dance) Thompson, making his directing debut, certainly does. He was 19 at the time, just like his two small-town, long-haired, draft-dodging, college-student heroes (Kiefer Sutherland and Robert Downey Jr.). With an infallible nose for the obvious, an unparalleled eye for the fake uplift of pretty scenery and a cauliflower ear for dialogue, Thompson trivializes almost every detail of that extraordinary time. Working like an interior decorator, he designs his movie in contrasts: Sutherland is a virgin, Downey a stud. Sutherland's brother (Chris Wynne) dies in the war; Downey's sexy sister (Winona Ryder) demonstrates against it. Sutherland has a hawkish dad (Bruce Dern) and a mom (Mariette Hartley) glad to whoosh him off to Canada to escape Nam. No need to go on. Thompson hasn't defined 1969; he's defaced it. (R)

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