Pontiac Moon (1994)
User ReviewsReview this title
The plot of the film centers around a journey to reach the "Spires of the Moon National Park", but in real life, there is no such park.
This piece of trivia may not seem significant, but for me it was the key to my enjoyment of the whole film. Suddenly it dawned on me that, just like the fictitious National Park which has no basis in fact, other "goofs" were deliberately put there to give the film a surreal, tongue-in-cheek quality. In short, this is pure fantasy where anything goes.
And trust me, the last 20 minutes requires some heavy suspension of disbelief (the same way a '49 Pontiac Eight would require a whole new suspension if you put a 455 engine in there like they did)! The last 20 minutes featured things that were so absolutely wrong, it felt like a Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker movie ("Airplane!"), and I believe in its own subtle way, that was the intent of the filmmakers. So just bear in mind, things are supposed to get bizarre and dreamy.
Now on to the movie as a whole...
The story is refreshingly original. A wacky schoolteacher father (Ted Danson) decides to temporarily abscond with his sheltered son (Ryan Todd) in an impulsive effort to achieve "one perfect act", much to the chagrin of the agoraphobic mother (Mary Steenburgen, Dansons wife) who hasn't left the house in 7 years. What follows is a cute road movie full of interesting characters and a few preposterous action scenes (but now remember what I told you about suspension of disbelief) while past family mysteries slowly unravel themselves. Everything leads lead us to an outrageous conclusion that will either leave you sighing with delight or hurling apple pie at the TV screen.
This film is a one-of-a-kind. At first it felt like a sappy "E.T." type flick, but it soon morphs into something more along the lines of "Edward Scissorhands" only without the satire & quirkiness, then slips into something like the "Dukes of Hazzard" TV series, before bringing us to something reminiscent of "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang".
This is a very polished production with some memorable moments. The acting sometimes seems over the top, but that's the point (Danson & Steenburgen portraying polar extremes of lunacy). I didn't care for the musical soundtrack in the first half which seemed to upstage dialogue, but in the latter half the film featured well-placed nostalgic hits such as "Crimson & Clover", "Let's Get Together" (smile on your brother) and "Cheek to Cheek". The director Peter Medak, known for his prolific work on 70s-80s TV, did a nice job with some stylish visuals (watch for the car carrier under the stars and tell me how the heck he pulled that off!).
If you're prepared for a wild ride, especially if you are able to experience the movie as if it were a dream, you'll enjoy yourself. I must confess, cynical old curmudgeon that I am, I hated this movie through most of it. But I'm ready to watch it again through rose colored glasses and have fun the 2nd time around. Here's hoping you can skip the hatred part.
Director Peter Medak, working from an offbeat, yet thoughtful script by Finn Taylor and Jeffrey Brown, offers an affectionate evocation of the late 1960's period setting, ably crafts and sustains a pleasant warm tone, makes the most out of the picturesque locations, and further enhances things with amusing moments of gentle wacky humor. A slew of sharp cameos from a top-drawer cast gives this picture an extra appealing lift: Cathy Moriarty as predatory barfly Lorraine, Eric Schweig as friendly pacifist Native American Ernest Ironplume, Max Gail as Bellamy's supportive farmer brother Jerome, J.C. Quinn as an irascible bartender, John Schuck as a bumbling state trooper, and Don Swayze as a hostile redneck. The bright and attractive cinematography by Thomas Kloss provides a pleasing sparkling look. Randy Edelman's lush and lively score hits the sweeping spot. A nice little film.
Thank you, Ted Danson.
While the story presented as a memoir of the child the overt part of the plot is quite simplistic. Yet what actually happens on unspoken level is extremely dramatic and revolutionary, even for just one family. For me it was the key to my enjoyment of the whole film. The simplicity of a road movie reflects just the quality of the childhood memory, deliberately put there to give the film a tone, yet symbolic meaning of it has so many layers. In short, this could be just a dream or fantasy where anything goes and open for the endless interpretations. Especially towards the end of the film things are supposed to get really dreamy and even bizarre.
The film oozes period nostalgia and the scenery on the roadtrip to The Peaks of the Moon in Idaho is quite breathtaking, and the relationship between the Ted Danson character and his young son is quite touching.
You cant expect anyone who wasn't alive at the time this movie was set to appreciate the feelings that the story creates, this is one for those who still retain those feelings of innocense and the feelings of hope that you had; being young in 1969.
It's more than just a movie, it unlocks feelings and emotions you thought you had long forgotten. Not a movie for the cynical, or for the Nintendo generation whom have no historical perspective and no idea what it was like to alive when the World was a place of hope.
However, watching Washington and Andy drive through the 1969 West in the Pontiac was fun. Besides the '49 Pontiac, there was an Amphicar (driven by Mary Steenburgen) as well as some neat oldies from the '40s sitting outside the Bellamy's home which Washington kept as collector cars.
Ultimately it was fun to watch the Bellamy family together again, being saved from a police manhunt as they drove the Amphicar across a lake to Canada.
Two parts of the movie were ridiculous; one was Andy Bellamy in his own father's science class, and putting a "455" V8 into the old Chief would have required major body modifications as well as a new transmission, impossible to do in a single night.
Inspiring was watching both the astronauts and the Bellamys preparing for their voyages at the same time, the liftoff and that shift of the old Hydra-Matic Drive into DR was a lot of fun to watch.
Along the way Dan loses his wallet, stranded in the desert at night, & is being chased by the Police. Dan's son who keeps a pet snake for the whole trip becomes quite useful in a bar.
The film seems so realistic & possible which added to all the Fun. ENJOY.
Now Washington is too inspired by the Apollo odyssey and decides it is time for his son to discover something more than what you can find in books. They will drive from their home in California to a natural crater in Idaho, in exactly the same time as Apollo XI gets from Earth to Moon.
The parallelism between the father-and-son trip and the space journey is maintained from the beginning to the end. Of course, the father and the son will strengthen their ties during the trip, the son will learn why his mother is so timorous and... maybe there's a happy ending over there!
2/5 stars -
Please visit my website for more of my top-ten best and worst films at http://www.theflickguy.org
The Flick Guy
It was a good movie, but would have been better if it wasn't made out to be a comedy. The seriousness if the family history should have lead to a serious story instead of poor attempts at humor thrown in along the way. They didn't really utilize the powerful engine installed in the car, and that whole part of the plot bringing in stalling of the car, replacing the engine and bringing the police was more of a distraction than an addition to the plot.