Home Video Hovel: The Sure Thing, by David Bax
Rob Reiner’s impeccable journeyman competence gave us a very strong run of movies in the 1980s and 1990s. Early in that run came 1985’s The Sure Thing, an agreeable film, new to Blu-ray, that makes up in old-school polish and charm what it lacks in originality.
John Cusack and Daphne Zuniga star as antipodal college student stereotypes forced to work with one another to make their way across the country with no means of transport and very little money, she to visit her longtime boyfriend and he to meet with a foxy lady his high school chum assures him is “a sure thing.” The film may milk much of it laughs and its plot particulars from young people having sex and drinking but it doesn’t take a film studies major to locate its roots in It Happened One Night.
While Reiner works behind the scenes to churn out a sturdy update of a familiar formula, the onscreen responsibilities fall almost entirely to the two leads. Zuniga comes off the best, starting as a studious, chaste stick-in-the-mud who could have been concocted in the screenwriter’s sleep and making her come alive over the course of the film. Her arc becomes ours as we watch her inner joie de vivre awaken.
Cusack, on the other hand, is serviceable but, much like Miles Teller, our current “young John Cusack,” he is far too willing to rely on his own superficial charms. He oscillates between distant affect and manic outbursts, always with one eye toward the camera, asking the audience to like him.
That doesn’t make Cusack bad in the film, not really; it just makes him adequate, like a lot of the rest of the movie. And when people as talented as Reiner, editor Robert Leighton and future celebrated cinematographer Robert Elswit are all being adequate at the same time, the resulting bit of assured classicism is nothing to sneeze at.
Special features include a commentary with Reiner, multiple making-of featurettes and the trailer.