Swelling the back catalogue (something we haven’t done quite enough of recently), I thought I’d slap up this DVD review, in honor of the 20th anniversary of License to Drive‘s theatrical release… wait, really?! Sure, why not? It’s of Anchor Bay’s special edition DVD release of the film from the summer of 2005, and was originally penned for Now Playing Magazine. To wit:
Ahh, the 1980s — an era when a nation came of age with fast food combo meals. With largesse, redundancy and mass appeal on the cultural menu, it should serve as no surprise, then, that this thinking was quickly applied to Hollywood, where studio executives decreed that no mere single Corey could satisfy youngsters’ teen heartthrob requirements. Ergo, Feldman and Haim — one a little nutty and rowdy, the other… well, still nutty and rowdy off screen, but more a boy-next-door-type on screen. Yes, 1988’s License to Drive represents the second pairing of the erstwhile (and current, some might argue) Lost Boys, and still stands 17 years after its release as a tolerable if very dated slice of teen fantasy.
After failing his driving test, Les (Haim) doesn’t know what he’s going to do to impress Mercedes (a 17-year-old Heather Graham, in her first movie role), who he’s already told he has his license. Spurred on by his raucous buddy Dean (Feldman), Les borrows his grandfather’s Caddy to keep a date and of course ends up on a wild and woolly adventure. The movie is in many respects formulaic as all get-out, of course, but what makes it work, in no particular order, is the chemistry between its two leads (Michael Manasseri also costars as the Corey’s third wheel pal), an assortment of ripe, enjoyable supporting characters (including Richard Masur, Carol Kane and Michael Ensign) and highly imaginative fantasy sequences that capture the heightened absurdity of adolescence. It may have also loosed Billy Ocean’s “Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car” upon us, but the song’s Corey-endorsed prominence gave it Top 40 legs.
Anchor Bay’s special edition DVD release kicks off with a nice insert booklet and a self-effacing audio commentary from writer Neil Tolkin and director Greg Beeman, who says, tongue in cheek, “It was early in my career, it was my first job… but I was working already at genius level.” The pair also relentlessly but good-naturedly hammer the movie’s fashion and wardrobe sense, while also offering up a few sparse trivia tidbits (the film’s genesis came from a failed National Lampoon’s article by Tolkin, and the production junked nine 1974 Cadillacs during filming). There’s a single deleted scene — which is actually more of an extended/alternate take of a sequence already in the movie — as well as two trailers, two TV spots (including one hilarious time capsule testimonial) and a copy of the film’s third draft screenplay on DVD-ROM.
The biggest bonus feature hook, though, is of course the new interview material with Haim and Feldman — 27 minutes in total, chock full of reminiscences and elliptical references to (drug-fueled?) production partying, something also present in Beeman and Tolkin’s commentary. The funniest moments come when Haim, now strangely puffy-faced, recalls his on-set bout with mono and makes fun (rightly so) of his perpetually agape mouth, against a montage of said slack-jawness. While I don’t quite give him credit for this as an “acting choice,” Haim at least comes off as more aware and grounded than Feldman, who is by turns apologetic, candid and delusional (“There were 1,500 kids surrounding our dressing rooms, rocking our trailers…”). License to Drive isn’t high art by any stretch of the imagination, but nostalgia buffs can revisit with confidence and enjoyment this treatment of the film that launched a thousand Tiger Beat pin-ups. For more on Haim and Feldman, meanwhile, click here. B- (Movie) B+ (Disc)