Home Video Hovel: Tucker: The Man and His Dream, by David Bax
Francis Ford Coppola’s Tucker: The Man and His Dream, from 1988, is kind of a perfect movie for Blu-ray, on which Lionsgate has recently released it. With photography like warm honey from Vittorio Storaro and thrumming original music by Joe Jackson both stunningly reproduced, the tech geek paradise of the format is as much the star of the release as the film itself. And that’s leaving out the crisp detail of the elaborate, meticulous sets and costumes. In the scope of Coppola’s career, Tucker is somewhere in the middle of the pack but there’s something to be said for the fact that it probably hasn’t looked this great since its theatrical release.
Jeff Bridges stars at Preston Tucker in this true story of a man who tried to take on the Big Three of the automobile industry by producing a better, safer, cheaper car. After the Second World War, during which Tucker produced military cars and gun turrets, he sets about creating the “car of the future.” With help from his wife (Joan Allen), business partner (Martin Landau), engineer (Elias Koteas), mechanic (Frederic Forrest), son (Christian Slater) and others (including turns from Nina Siemaszko, Dean Stockwell, Lloyd Bridges, Marshall Bell and Jay O. Sanders), he comes tantalizingly close to success before the established companies decide he’s too much of a risk and bring their legal and financial resources around to confront him.
As the subtitle makes clear, Tucker is just as much about its protagonist as it is about the dream, which is the classic “American dream” or, at least, the politically conservative version of it, wherein hard work and minimal government interference are a recipe for success. On the other hand, though, the movie’s free enterprise rallying cry dies out when it comes to businesses that grow big enough to be able to stymie competition. Tucker is a decidedly right-leaning film but it’s more diplomatic, compromising and evenhanded than the leaders of the American right wing today.
In case that makes it sound didactic, the movie is also not immune to the charms of hucksterism. In fact, it’s in love with them to the point of emulating them itself. Tucker, the character, embellishes and enchants with his mile a minute mouth (hilarious blowing past malapropisms like opening “Aunt Dora’s box”) while Tucker, the film, does the same in its rose-colored view of an imaginary heyday of U.S. manufacturing. Tucker: The Man and His Dream is both an ode to American bullshit and a winning example of it.
Lionsgate’s Blu-ray comes from a 4K restoration and it is, in every sense of the word, brilliant. Storaro’s colors are essential to the movie and they’re so bold on this disc, they look like wet paint. The 5.1 audio mix could similarly be described as tactile, so deep and powerful is the bass.
Special features are rewardingly heavy with Coppola’s involvement. He provides an introduction and a commentary track, while also providing optional commentary tracks for a deleted scene and a 1948 promo film for Tucker’s car. There is also a making-of featurette.