• Grandview, U.S.A.

    Released By: Kino Lorber
    Released On: September 6, 2016
    Director: Randal Kleiser
    Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, John Cusack
    Year: 1984
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movie:

    Ah, the 80's. Saturday Night Live was still funny. Duran Duran and Wham! were at the top of the pop charts. And Jamie Lee Curtis taking her top off in the movies was as common as a spring rain. In Grandview, Illinois, local baseball teams hit home runs, kids ate ice cream, and small-town living was all it was cracked up to be, for most. This was not Lynch's Lumberton, this was an idyllic setting where the worst of troubles could be laughed off, or at least shrugged away after a night of moderate alcohol consumption.

    Tim Pearson's (C. Thomas Howell) biggest worry is getting himself and his date to the senior prom, remedied by his father's handing over of the keys to his Cadillac. Both the Pearsons and the parents of Tim's date, Bonnie, are beside themselves with joy at how grown up their children look, with multiple photo opportunities threatening to make the good-looking couple late to the party. Fortunately for Tim and Bonnie, there's no start time set for their secret rendezvous down by the river, where Bonnie will most assuredly give up her womanliness in the back seat. Unfortunately for Tim, the promise of back seat action interferes with his knowledge of setting a parking brake, and he sinks his dad's precious automobile up to the steering wheel in mud and river gunk.

    Heading to the outskirts of town to get some help, Tim comes across Cody's Speedrome, home of Grandview's own demolition derby, and its reigning champion, Ernie "Slam" Webster (Patrick Swayze). Tim strikes a deal with Michelle "Mike" Cody (Curtis), who runs the Speedrome with her mother and mentally challenged brother, to tow him out of the river and get his car home. Though Mike's amusement at the muddy senior turns to the cold shoulder after she learns who his father is, and even though he's still got a chance to get physical with Bonnie in spite of her father's wrath, Tim finds himself taken with Mike's flannel and denim-clad curvaceous figure. His father is not pleased with his son's newfound interest, warning him to stay away from Cody's, but Tim can't get Mike off of his mind, losing himself in MTV-like daydreams where he assures Mike that he's her steely action man.

    There's trouble up ahead, however, and it's coming in waves; Cody's Speedrome isn't pulling in the kind of cash needed to stay open for business, bringing developers interested in shutting down her father's legacy, and star driver Slam finds out that his vixen wife (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is stepping out on him while he's at the track. And when Slam and Tim both find themselves in love with Mike, Slam needs to accept the fact that he never loved his own wife, and Tim must choose between Jamie Lee love and his dream of heading to Florida to become and oceanographer. With no clear answers to any of the questions, there's only one way to figure things out; in a demolition derby battle that will end in tears, heartbreak, and bodily injuries.

    Judging by the opening of Grandview, U.S.A., which plays out like an old-timey Coca-Cola commercial, one would get the impression that they're in for some family-friendly Americana fun. And that illusion is certainly carried for a good portion of the film; even Michael Winslow is here to make his funny sounds into a microphone, providing mirth for all. Everybody's all-American here, with Howell as the ideal high school student with a valedictorian speech prepared and a scholarship to University, and Swayze as his cut-and-dried opposite; a hard-workin' man's man with hair not too long and not too short, getting by and doing what he wants to do. And if there was any doubt that the film was anything but a happy normal flick, hey, it's John and Joan Cusack, being their usual friendly selves.

    So, what the hell happens that kicks it off the rails? Well, sir, it beats the hell out of me, starting with that music video for Steely Action Man. And, not to post spoilers, but that's not the only music video that Howell's Tim injects his macho self into, creating an atmosphere of absolute confusion. Ken Hixon's script predominantly relies on sincere dialogue in awkward moments to create light comedy, which we can assume is the film's motivation, but a trip into Wackyland assures us that something else entirely is going on. By the time Jason Leigh shoots somebody, followed by Curtis' clothes coming off, and a serious showdown at the track, one can conclude that this movie is a mess, bordering on chaos. What is going on? What's up with that totally random ending that could be described as neatly bow-tied but is actually a bizarre turn of events? Nobody knows.

    Oh well. While the script is a bit of a head-scratcher, Grandview gets a few things right, intentionally or not, and those few things are almost entirely down to the cast. Howell is really no different than he is in any other role, but that's just fine for this one, because small-town innocent boy is definitely called for. Swayze is what you'd expect....awesome and a bit of a badass...and Jamie Lee Curtis is as cool as ever, or at least as cool as she was back in the day. Kleiser's direction and the cinematography of Reynaldo Villalobos capture the vibe easily as well, but....well, who cares? This is not a story that is compelling, or uplifting, or has some sage words of wisdom to pass on. It's the cinematic embodiment of its opening musical number, the one about hanging out with your buddies and doing what you want. Whatever that is.


    Kino brings Grandview, U.S.A. to Blu-ray in an AVC-encoded 1.85:1 transfer that looks good. There's detail a-plenty, healthy grain with no noticeable DNR, decent black levels, and a satisfying colour palette that shows off that previously mentioned cinematography. Dirt and debris went largely unnoticed.

    Kino has provided two English audio tracks for the release; a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, and a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. Both tracks are sufficient, and while the 5.1 won't rattle the subwoofer or blow out your surround speakers, it did seem to breathe a little more than the stereo track. Distortion was non-evident, no hiss was detected, and the track was clear and concise in each area.

    No subs are provided for this release, and there are no supplements.

    The Final Word:

    Grandview, U.S.A. is not what one would call a good film, but somehow remains lodged in my brain. Is it because it has something I didn't notice? Or is it just because it's a confusing mess of stuff jammed into one place that I couldn't relate to at all? Either way, fans of the film should like the transfer, which is decent enough, but the lack of supplements is a bit of a disappointment.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 2 Comments
    1. C.D. Workman's Avatar
      C.D. Workman -
      Great review, Mark. Regardless, I'm glad you reviewed this one and not me!!!!
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      Hahaha, the music videos made up for it, Chris! If you can find Steely Action Man, it's worth a listen!