THE SURE THING

(1985)
With John Cusack, Daphne Zuniga, Nicolette Sheridan, Anthony Edwards, Boyd Gaines, Tim Robbins, Lisa Jane Persky
Directed by Rob Reiner
Reviewed by JB

It Happened One Day, too      One of the most charming teen comedies ever made, Rob Reiner's THE SURE THING can hardly be classified as a teen comedy at all.  Sure, the story is about a goofy college kid who travels 3000 miles for a guaranteed one-night stand ("a sure thing"), but THE SURE THING is much more in the spirit of the romantic screwball films of the 1930s, especially IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT.  A freewheeling guy and an uptight girl get stuck together on the road and share various adventures until the inevitable moment they realize they love each other.  There - I've just spoiled the plot.  But never mind, because from the beginning of THE SURE THING, you know what's going to happen.  The fun, as in all road pictures, is in the getting there.

     John Cusack, in his first major role after kicking around in a handful of other teen comedies, quickly established himself as one of the major teen stars of the decade.  His hangdog looks, natural comic energy and air of casual nerd-cool lead to many more roles and a long, impressive career.  For his first starring role, Cusack shows an incredible amount of self-confidence, owning this film as much as Matthew Broderick owned FERRIS BUELLER'S DAY OFF but without Broderick's occasionally annoying smugness.

    Daphne Zuniga is almost as good but could never follow up on her success in this film. Softly pretty, with eyes as expressive as Cusack's and a warm, grounded acting style, she never quite caught on.  After THE SURE THING Zuniga played Princess Vespa in Mel Brooks' STAR WARS parody SPACE BALLS, the female lead in the awful THE FLY II and it was all downhill from there. Too bad, because here, she is the perfect foil for the silly antics of Cusack, playing the sophisticated Claudette Colbert to his uninhibited Clark Gable.

     Highlights include the hitchhiking pair getting picked up by a show tune-singing couple (one of whom is played by Tim Robbins in one of his earliest roles), a memorable night in the pouring rain without food, money or shelter but with a credit card Zuniga is only supposed to use for emergencies ("Well, maybe one will come up," says Cusack with one of the most perfect line deliveries ever captured on film), and Cusack's night out in a cowboy bar with a fat drunk ("Barkeep - give this man a trough of spritzer!").

     Filled with more memorable lines than most teen comedies, THE SURE THING still holds up all these years later as Rob Reiner's first great romantic comedy.  Compare this to, say, SUPERBAD, and you can see just where the teen comedy genre went wrong over the past few decades. 4 - JB

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