Picks and Pans Review: Where the Day Takes You

updated 09/28/1992 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/28/1992 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Sean Astin, Lara Flynn Boyle, Dermot Mulroney, Balthazar Getty, Ricki Lake, Laura San Giacomo, Kyle MacLachlan, Will Smith

Slickly crafted and artfully acted, this kids-on-the-street movie is reminiscent of GoodFellas in its inordinate attention to a group of profoundly unsympathetic, unrelievedly despicable social parasites.

Here, Mulroney (Bright Angel) is the informal leader of a group of runaway teenagers who live on the street (or under freeway overpasses) in Los Angeles, surviving by various hustles. Astin (Encino Man) is a drug-addicted member of Mulroney's pack, while Getty (Lord of the Flies) is a part-time gay prostitute who is very sweet-natured except for his obsession with firearms. Smith (TV's Fresh Prince of Bel Air) is a resilient paraplegic, while Boyle (TV's Twin Peaks) is a newcomer to the underpass subculture, having just arrived from Chicago, to the dismay and jealousy of the frumpy, affection-starved Lake (Hairspray).

These are not star-struck kids rejected by Hollywood and left homeless. Rather, they are irresponsible brats who find the street life romantic and basically prefer having chips on their shoulders to working. Director and co-writer Marc (Dream a Little Dream) Rocco, son of veteran actor Alex Rocco, never provides any context for the youngsters' disaffection, other than a brief scene showing Astin returning to his turbulent home and his brutalizing father. Rocco tells much of the story statically, showing Mulroney being interviewed by social worker San Giacomo (Quigley Down Under), and he wastes that splendid young actress by showing her face fleetingly. Even at that, her distinctive, raspy voice makes her a substantial presence. MacLachlan (Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me) adds a villainous performance as a brutal drug dealer, and Peter (The Marrying Man) Dobson is another noteworthy bad guy as a pimp who tries to pick Boyle up right off the bus.

The young cast, especially the charismatic Mulroney, the desperate Astin (who evokes the memory of that appealing dramatic-movie clown William Bendix) and the thoughtful Getty, overcome much of their characters' repulsiveness. No thanks to Rocco and writing partners Kurt (Genuine Risk) Voss and newcomer Michael Hitchcock; their script is doggedly lacking in eloquence and insight, except for a painful scene in which Getty reluctantly succumbs to an aging trick.

The inevitable (and inevitably invidious) comparison is to Martin Bell's 1984 documentary Streetwise, which chronicled the abysmal lives of real kids living on Seattle streets. Rent that video before or after you see this film. Better still, rent it instead. (R)

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