Dancer, Texas Pop. 81 (1998) Poster

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10/10
What a great movie!!
PrincessSilvrRos22 February 2005
OK, for all you people who came from "smalltown, America" who are complaining about this, you should really think about it. This was a really great movie, that shows that you have it all if you just take a look at what you think you are missing. I grew up in Southern Ca, and i moved to a small town when i was 21, but even growing up in a town just shy of a million people, i got an appreciation for it when i left that i would have never had, had i stayed there. This was a great movie, one i would recommend to anyone looking for a good way to spend an evening. not only does it show that a movie can be good without being raunchy and filled with sex, its worth the time that you spend watching it. I would watch it again.
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10/10
Wonderful story, wonderful performances, wonderful movie
Cue-ball4 July 2002
In 1998, Tim McCanlies had a crazy idea. He made a movie about a tiny town in the middle of nowhere, in which no one gets killed, nothing gets blown up, no one has sex, and there aren't any aliens from outer space. Thank goodness he saw his crazy idea through; the result is a fabulous movie that I saw in the theater in 1998, and I am not sure I have seen a better movie since then.

The setting of the movie is the fictitious town of Dancer, located in Southwest Texas, where the counties are bigger than the states in the northeast and the people are outnumbered by rattlesnakes. The movie begins on Friday, when four boys are graduating from high school. We learn that, while they were in junior high school, they made a "solemn vow" that as soon as they graduated, they were going to get on the next bus to California to make their mark on the world. Easy to say when you're in junior high, and graduation is years away. But now it's here, and the bus is pulling out on Monday morning. The question is whether any of the boys will follow through.

That's pretty much the plot. What's so special? Simple: the relationships between the boys, between each of them and their family members, and between the folks in the town. This movie, like all great movies, is about the characters' reactions to the circumstances they are in. The characters are real, fleshed out not in bold strokes but in nuances, and their actions, not always predictable, are always believable. Most of us have faced the decision whether to leave the town that we grew up in. It is fascinating to watch these teenagers begin to grow into men -- at an accelerated pace, because of their childhood pledge.

Someday, when you are at the video store and you don't know what to get, you will see this on the shelf. Get it. You will be very, very happy.
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Hey, I didn't give anyone permission to write a movie about me.
tchick-130 September 2004
This movie was a like a trip back home for me. I grew up in West Texas, and I always knew in that process that I would one day leave it. By no plan or design, somehow it happened, in many stages. Ultimately, where did I find myself? In California, of course.

Now looking back with the help of this movie, I see the simple good of the life I lived back then, when life was slow, plodding even, but placid and enjoyable.

Dancer, Texas Pop. 81 provides a window back in time to the life we used to be able to live. I especially enjoyed the halting conversation between the two ranchers, a conversation of one and two word sentences. These two were so tuned into one-another that they needed very few words to express their ideas, thoughts, and concerns. People should be more like that today.
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9/10
Totally enjoyable
Mike-DD21 August 2000
Warning: Spoilers
Though a bit slow at times, it is quite refreshing to watch a movie that doesn't have any box-office ambitions and yet exceed the expectations one would associate with a blockbuster. 4 teenage boys are faced with life-changing choices when they graduate from high school, whether to follow their parents' wishes and stay in small town Texas (as the name implies), or to strike it big in one of the big cities.

There are some commendable performances in here, notable that of Breckin Meyer as Keller Coleman, as he tries to come to terms with leaving his only kin, his grandfather, behind alone while he leaves the town with Lusk (Facinelli). Facinelli also puts in a performance better than I expected from his previous films as the son who does not want in on the family business but wishes to strike it out on his own. I wished that there could be plot involvement for Eddie Mills and Ethan Embry though, the other 2 main actors - they did not have much to act on and I for one would have liked them to have a larger role in the story. But I guess there is only so much you can show in 2 hours. Irregardless of any 'faults' this movie might have, it is still a refreshing look at small town life and the choices some of the teens have to take when they come of age.
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If you know and don't hate small-town life, you'll enjoy it
BibChr22 January 2000
Before getting the movie, I was puzzled at the sharp disparity in the comments here. Now I think I understand them!

A character in the movie says something like this: "Some people aren't meant to live in a small town. Some can't live anywhere else." There's truth to that, and I think it's reflected in the differing responses to the movie here.

If you have experienced small-town life, and either love it or at least are wryly comfortable with it, you'll like this movie a lot. You'll feel you've met these people, you've been to their church, you've been at their picnics. You'll enjoy the scenery, the decent neighborliness, the conversations, the characters.

If you're more of a big-city type, you'll be very impatient. Nothing "happens"! No heads explode, no alien invasions, abductions, or even flyovers. No sex, virtually no profanity, no fist-fights. Everyone keeps most of his clothes on. Kids love and respect their parents and families, even when they're a little daft. People fight, but basically care about each other. It's boring - to some!

I offer no judgment, just this filter to help you decide whether the movie's for you. If you like movies that make you ache for small-town life, you'll like this. If you need action and adrenalin, you may very well not. I like both, and I liked this movie.
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10/10
This one is a charmer.
Nimbo31 August 1999
I spent a pleasant evening last night viewing this superb portrait of americana. I only wish that I had grown up in such a small town. These kids, teenagers, had it all, most of all solid friendships. I never was able to determine for certain how many if any would leave that fateful Monday morning on the journey to Los Angeles, leaving the small town and its people behind. That some left was inevitable. That some stayed was natural. I would have stayed. As the song at the end said, Dancer may not be on the map, Mr. McNally but it ought to be. I agree. My next visit to West Texas will include it. What a delight I have waiting for me. I feel SO good!!!
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9/10
Big City Dreams, Small Town Hearts
PiKapp2328 July 1999
Coming from a small town in West Virginia I was able to understand the plight of the 4 boys. My friends and I also made a similar pact, although ours started with going to college together and then moving to some big city and living a glamorous life. That's why this movie really struck me.

This movie is for anyone who has ever felt like there has to be more out there. It captures both the charms and pitfalls of small town life. In "Dancer" Squirrel and John both find a situation that suits them, giving them a glimmer of hope for the future, while Keller and Terrell Lee both realize that they will never be able to find the happiness they wish for in Dancer, Texas. At one point, though, both almost hit a point of acceptance that this is what their lives are to be and resolve to themselves that they must stay and make the best of it.

The theme through for this movie is that each of us must find what makes us happy, assessing what we have, what we need, what we want and how we're going to balance these. We can't always have everything we want, and sometimes to get something we have to give up something. And furthermore, we have to remember that what is right for one person may not be right for someone else, no matter how much you might wish it is.
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lovely little movie....
kcandler10 May 2004
I grew up in one of the towns mentioned in this film.....Midland, TX. This movie will certainly appeal to those who are from the area, like quirky laidback flicks or just enjoy a good film. This film had heart...it includes a cast of virtual unknowns at the time...Peter Facinelli(Scorpion King)...Ethan Embry(Sweet Home Alabama).....Breckin Meyer(Clueless)....There's some beautiful shots of wide open land....Some of the lingo might be outdated but it's a town of 81 people....You have to figure for it to be authentic...they people wouldn't be up on the latest lingo since they live in a town of 81 people. Don't listen to some silly critics(heck, it's their job to criticize) or someone from New Zealand.....what the heck do they know about small town USA....I recommend this flick....check it out...
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9/10
A great story about friendship that reminds me of home.
padre-229 November 1998
I really enjoyed this film because it did capture everything that's great about small-town life, including bonds shared with the people around you. Even though this kind of story could take place anywhere, placing it in a small country town slowed the story down so that I could really enjoy it. The nostalgia also brought a tear to my eye:)
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10/10
A feel-good film of the first order
Cyk13 June 1999
I walked away from this film with an incredibly good feeling; it was great. It features four young boys on the day of their graduation. They had made a childhood pact to leave their tiny town right after graduation. The audience watches as family interests and friends conflict with hopes, dreams, and practicality. For the record, I'd like to add that this is a great film to see even just for the performances of Breckin Meyer and Ethan Embry. Meyer is the story's dubious hero; he's self-centered but so good-natured and hopeful that you can't help but like him. Embry's character is dirt-poor and has a drunk for a father, but he's so incredibly goofy and sweet that at the end of the movie, you find yourself cheering for him. I recommend this movie to pretty much anyone. There's no sex, no violence, and only a tiny amount of cursing. An especially good movie to watch in groups.
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10/10
Guaranteed to put a smile on your face!
mountain9116 March 2006
I was bored one Sunday morning in August 2004 and I was surfing through the channels and I stumbled on this movie that was on one of the premium channels. I was getting more and more into it as the plot was going. My favorite character is Squirrel played by Ethan Embry. After seeing it on TV, I just had to buy it on DVD and I have showed this movie to many of my friends and they love it! It was amazing to see that the director of this movie Tim McCanlies directed Secondhand Lions. This movie shows what true friendship really is and what small town life is about. I recommend this movie to everyone and it is great for the whole family to watch.
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10/10
When movies were young, signs warned audiences about their lack of reality...
russwollman4 March 2006
...and the smashing verisimilitude is what makes "Dancer,Texas" such a fine piece of work.

This is one of the few films I have on the shelf. I have watched it time and again. Its pace is perfect, slower than the norm, as you'd expect life in Dancer, Texas to move. The film moves forward gracefully, allowing you a satisfying undercurrent of simple suspense.

In sharp contrast to more contrived, more spectacular films which try too hard to stimulate or excite the viewer, this one succeeds effortlessly on the strength of its fine portrait of humanity. The players—none of them household names—are completely convincing and quite talented. Within minutes, you'll swear you've met them all in the times of your own life. The familiarity will, I hope, be endearing rather than boring.

There's a lot of warmth and charm in this film, yet it never becomes saccharine. Neither does it ignore some of the harder, less pleasant realities of human life. They remain below the surface or are stated quietly rather than being blown out of proportion. It's a nicely balanced work.

What touches me most deeply every time I watch this gem is the sweet, wonderful friendship shared among the four main characters, so well created in the script and so nicely executed by four fine young actors.

In a few words, this film is good for the heart, fulfilling the restorative function of good entertainment. It may renew your faith in human nature. The citizens of "Dancer, Texas" must exist—and not just in places too tiny to be on Rand McNally's map. This film's sweetness is a rare find in an industry not usually given to such expression, and therefore it's a great prize for some.

This is a classic. I want to jump into it and stay for a while.
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good movie overall
mustang282922 March 2004
this may not have been the best movie i've ever seen, but it ranks high on my faves. even though the story takes place in a town that does not exist witch is ok by me. It's only a movie right. Actually the real name of the tow it was filmed in is Ft. Davis texas witch is 26 miles from me and if you hear the name of a school called sul ross in this movie i'm here to tell you that school is as real and it's name how do i know this. Because i live in Alpine and did attend sul ross at one point. Anyways i can pretty much relate to keller and all of his buds for wanting to get out of a small town. I mean 81 people?! Now thats to small even for me. But the story does make a lot of scence. And the directior seemed to know what he was doing, even though some scenes dragged out a bit. Anyways i defently feel that this movies relates to thousands of people who live in small towns all across the country and i think that at least 90% will enjoy the movie. This is one movie I highly recommend
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8/10
A movie you must see!!
hoelschr3 July 2010
This movie really caught the feeling of living in a small town. There are many characters in those towns, and the characters in this movie are entirely representative of what you might find in a small Texas town. Keller has dreamed of leaving for California with his three buddies for years, but on the day before they are to leave, several of them start having second thoughts that their place is really in Dancer and not in Los Angeles. This movie demonstrates the emotions which come in to play when a young person truly realizes that he or she might be seeing really good friends for the last time. It also brings into play the fear that a young man might experience when leaving the relative safety of his small hometown for the big, wide world where everything is an unknown.This movie caught the emotion tied up with leaving that small town and those people who have been your life for 18 years. Filmed in beautiful Ft. Davis, Texas, this is really one of those fine under-appreciated movies that will be enjoyed by movie lovers everywhere.
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10/10
GREAT! One of the best and most under-rated films of 1998!
Fred-7024 January 1999
GREAT! One of the best and most under-rated films of 1998!

This was a beautiful film with a simple yet powerful message about friendship and life changing decisions. Touching, heartfelt and utterly sincere, the movie is not for the cynical, pretentious, and too-hip-to-care crowd. It is instead a quiet celebration of not only small town life but also the unique and important memories and experiences that make us who we are. Never forced, manipulative or false-- the straight forward screenplay dares to take its time and skirt the edge of gratuitous sentimentality without ever dipping into it. A heartfelt and profound film that leaves a lasting impact.
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9/10
Simply Warm, Charming, and Real
lasherxl7 September 2000
This starts out so simply, but cuts to the heart of the American midwest, having spent my summers there as I child, I understand that mentality very well. My mother was born in a small town in New Mexico, and the people there have a wonderful, if simple charm to themselves. They are caring, yet ultimately unchanging, they can't possibly understand why anyone would want to leave a small town, very much as the townspeople in the movie were.

The four main characters in this film were portrayed wonderfully, by Breckin Meyer(Keller), Peter Facinelli(Terrel Lee), Eddie Mills (John), and the ever charming Ethan Embry(Squirrel). The friendship they had felt real, as if they had really known each other their whole lives. When their oath to leave town after their High School Graduation begins to fall apart when Terrel Lee Announces he cannot leave his family behind, each member examines his reasons for leaving the small town of Dancer. Of course, the truly bright spot in the film is the incredible performance of Ashley Johnson who you might remember from Growing Pains as the youngest member Chrissy. She plays John's little sister, she is simply heart-felt and charming in this role, amazing you with her ability to speak about difficult subjects better than some adults I know. Of course, you can't leave out Patricia Wettig as Terrel Lee's tyrannical mother, even though she only makes about three appearances in the film, she fills the screen with her presence each time.

All in all, this film is a well done venture. I recommend this film to anyone who comes from a small town, or would like to know what one is like, this is your best bet. With so many brilliant performances, and a breathtaking backdrop of Texas behind it, it is simply magnificent.
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10/10
THE HOMETOWN OF EVERYONE
cgonzalez22 August 2000
I saw this film while I was spending my holidays far away of my living city.... I felt that Dancer Texas it´s like our hometown... no matter how different it´s our language and location.

This it´s a real movie... not the plastic hollywood style movie.

No famous actors... no bombs or explosions... no crashes... no beautiful cars or Barbie dolls. Not Michael Douglas or the "Ice Face" of Julia Roberts... The film looks like one of the best old italian style...

I will wait for the next film of the same producer and Director. Thanks DANCER !!!!

CARLOS
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8/10
A heartwarming movie
angela-386 February 2000
I had never heard of this movie when I happened on it on cable. When I saw the four teenage boys in the first scene, I braced myself for a typical teen comedy. What I found instead was a gem of a movie about four boys who planned to leave their tiny Texas town after graduation. The film traces the weekend before their planned departure, as the boys are torn between staying in their small community and leaving for Los Angeles. The film does not glorify the small town. It clearly shows that for a restless teen, it can be boring. But it also shows the relationships that develop when there are only a few people of each age in close proximity. The writing is wonderful. Each boy had a distinct personality, and each family is unique. I wish more "small" movies were available. I will recommend this movie, and I look forward to finding more movies made by this writer/director.
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9/10
Warm and intelligent
Heden-213 October 1999
This is a wonderful movie. Not only because of the warm and well planned story. The young actors are more than great. Excellent casting. Ethan Embry is the star in my opinion. He plays his character Squirrel with a lot of energy. This is his best role along with Preston in "Can't hardly wait". Peter Facinelli is also a great actor and you can see why in this movie.

I am a bit angry, because Sweden didn't show Dancer at the cinemas. It went direct to video. People will not notice it. They all want to rent blockbusters that they have seen at the cinema.

See this movie! You will not regret it!
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10/10
Brilliant evocation of bored West Texas teenagers
Cary-51 October 1998
McCanlies does a superb job as writer and director evoking the boredom and wanderlust of teenagers in small West Texas towns. The film is a beautiful homage to the Big Bend country and its resilient residents.
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7/10
A nice little Gem
Agent1015 July 2006
Dancer, Texas isn't a perfect film, but at least it's watchable. Initially the cast didn't really turn any heads or catch my attention, but the naturalness the actors encompassed in their characters was quite endearing. Considering the lackluster filmographies of the four main characters, this film will be a standout in their careers.

What I especially enjoyed was the fact that the film didn't poke fun at small town life. While small town people are often times ridiculed in most films, McCanlies tries honoring them by portraying their humility and honor. What I especially liked was how slow the film was, a perfect juxtaposition to the speed of small-town life. The only thing I was somewhat down on was the lack of development in terms of father-son relationships. While Terrell Lee's relationship with his father was revealed quite nicely, we didn't get much in the way of Squirrel's or John's father.

Beyond that one little oversight, I felt the film had a solid enough ground to stand on.
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10/10
An Underrated Gem!!
dsadajr4 April 2017
This is a very charming film. The story of four high school friends from a small town in Texas who swore an oath at age 12 to move to Los Angeles right after graduation. It is not easy to make a film where the plot revolves around human relationships. This film is exceptionally well written and the characters are very well developed.

Between the Saturday they graduate and the next Monday when they are supposed to leave, each of the four boys find strong reasons to stay. There are no car chases, explosions, or sex and that is one of the film's strengths!

There are excellent performances all around. Breckin Meyer and Ethan Embry are especially good. All the actors that play the boys went on to make other films and guest star in TV shows such as "Dawson's Creek", "Franklin and Bash", "Grace and Frankie", "Sweet Home Alabama" and the "Twilight" films. Their roles here are from the early part of their careers, and their performances are superb! Patricia Wettig of "Thirtysomething" co-stars.

The story never gives a false note. If you like movies about people and how they relate to one another, you will like this film. It takes place in West Texas, but the story is universal and it could have taken place in a small town pretty much anywhere! An underrated gem!!
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9/10
Enjoyable Small-Town Slice of Life
joesorce6 November 2006
This is a surprisingly well-written and enjoyable little film about that choice that so many of us have to make at one time or another...whether to carry on with the old family traditions or to strike out on our own. Some of us need familiarity and safeness, others need to see the world. This is a simple story for those who like the slow-paced thoughtfulness of films like "A Straight Story", "An Unfinished Life" or "Strangers in Good Company". No bells and whistles here, very few plots twists or conflict. The film kinda plods along just like life does, one has to pause to find the best moments of the film just like one needs to stop and smell the roses.

Performances are generally good except for Ethan Embry who goes over the top a bit too often and becomes a caricature. In fact all of the 4 main characters seem a bit too old to be in high school, and a bit too cultured to be from a West Texas town of 81 residents.

A family film with a sophisticated sense of humor. Excellent cameo roles from a handful of screen veterans are a highlight.
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7/10
Simple, Feel-Good Fare
gbheron14 October 2000
Some reviewers have referred to "Dancer, Tex Pop. 81" as a "Last Picture Show"-lite. How wrong. "Last Picture Show" was dark and depressing; focusing on death, decay and lost hope. "Dancer, Tex Pop. 81", although also set in an extremely small Texas town, is about choices, all of them good. It balances the joys and benefits of small-town life against the youthful yearning to experience the unknown. The movie follows the town's high-school graduating class of all of five students; four young men and a lady. Years ago the men had pledged a sacred oath to leave town together for Las Angeles immediately after graduation. Now three of the four are not so sure. To stay or to go? That's it in a nutshell, as a weekend's events unfold before the fateful bus journey. This is a feel-good movie in the tradition of "American Graffiti". Not nearly as good, but certainly good enough for a night's rental.
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5/10
Sensitive Males
grrrlygirl6 April 2004
As someone who grew up in the area where this film is set, I can tell you that the four male protagonists are waaaay too sensitive.

Four real-life small-town Texas buddies would NOT spend all that time hugging one another and telling each other how glad they are to be friends, even if they were about feeling emotional as they approached high school graduation. Real West Texas boys are far more crude than that.

Small West Texas towns are seething pits of sex, drugs and alcohol (or at least they were in the 1980s and 1990s, and 1970s, and 1960s, and 1950s...) and these kids were rated PG. They hardly even cuss. For a more realistic take on Texas life, rent The Last Picture Show instead.

The other thing that bugged me was that the rich-kid character came from an oil family. That the family oil business was going belly-up was plausible, but there is NO OIL in the mountainous part of the state. It's cattle country.
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