Picks and Pans Review: Days of Thunder

updated 07/16/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/16/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Tom Cruise, Robert Duvall

Gentlemen, start your clichés.

In this running of the Star Trip Generic Auto Racing Film Classic, Richard Dix in Racing Hearts (1923) gets the pole position for old time's sake. Then come James Cagney in The Crowd Roars (1932), Mickey Rooney in The Big Wheel (1949), Kirk Douglas in The Racers (1955), James Garner in Grand Prix (1966), Elvis Presley in Speedway (1968), Paul Newman in Winning (1969), Steve McQueen in Le Mans (1971) and Al Pacino in Bobby Deerfield (1977).

And there's the green flag!

Cruise, as a driver trying to break into big-time speedway racing, has lots of competition here. Elvis got to sing, Rooney looked grimly determined, Garner had John Frankcnheimer to direct. Newman even had his missus, Joanne Woodward, in Winning.

But then Cruise has his near-missus, Nicole Kidman, playing the can't-stand-to-watch-this romantic interest. (Kidman does get to be a doctor and scoff at race drivers as "infantile egomaniacs.") Cruise also has his Top Gun director, Tony Scott.

What's this, though! Tom's bogged down in product plugs! Even more plugs than are plastered over cars, drivers' suits and all plasterable surfaces in real racing!

Wait, Cruise is gaining! In boy-meets race, boy-loses-race stuff, predictable dialogue is vital. Tom gets to say, "Racing is all I know"; crew chief Duvall says of a big race, "This is it. What it's all about." Randy Quaid, owner of a car Cruise drives, says, "Whatever we do from here, promise me we'll win Daytona."

Oh-oh! Looks like a pit stop to figure out subplots. That accident involving Cruise and Michael (Sea of Love) Rooker—it's never clear whether Rooker caused it on purpose. Does Quaid turn into a villain midway into the film or not? And how did Duvall's old driver die, anyway? But now Cruise is getting a boost from the redoubtable Duvall and a subtle—under the circumstances—job by Rooker. Tom is making up for the fact that the race footage is not all that spectacular and that there are such dumb scenes as one where he and Rooker engage in a bumper car battle on the streets of Daytona Beach.

Okay. Cruise is looking fine; he's acting well. And now, taking the checkered flag...

Is Richard Dix! (Give the guy a break. He hasn't had a big year in a while.) (PG-13)


Even when the Jetsons first appeared on TV in 1962 they would have seemed hopelessly square for a children's show, let alone for the prime-time spot they occupied. And like their cousins The Flintstones, they haven't gotten any hipper or even campier over the years, just older—and more popular.

The original 24 Jetsons episodes Hanna-Barbera made have been rerun over the past 27 years; 41 new shows were done in 1985, 10 more in 1987. So the futuristic cartoon family clearly has a following that should like this full-length animated feature, which is full of a lack of surprises.

The plot involves George's new assignment: managing a glitch-plagued Spacely Sprocket plant on an asteroid. This allows George to mess up, Mr. Spacely to sputter and everyone to bring about a tidy conclusion with a restrained ecology message.

There is one fascinating fantasy sequence set to a pop tune sung by pop star Tiffany: a kaleidoscopic series of images that include flash-by allusions to Picasso, Klee, Warhol and O'Keeffe, among other artists. The sequence stands out partly because it is so imaginative compared with the usual prosaic Hanna-Barbera animation.

There is also a good joke involving a TV soap opera, All My Androids. But Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera, sharing director-producer credits, and writer Dennis Marks follow a tame path. Original cast members George O'Hanlon (George) and Mel Blanc (Spacely), both of whom have since died, headed the voice-over cast. Tiffany, as Judy Jetson, acts a bit as well as sings, and Don Messick as Astro the dog, sounds like Scooby-Doo, another canine voice he specializes in.

If you can imagine Total Recall and Gremlins without the violence and meanness—a lot of imagining there—and throw in a touch of Father Knows Best, then animate the whole business, you get the picture. (G)

From Our Partners