Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Film Appreciation - Baby, You Can Drive My Car

Film Appreciation and Cody Hamman take a ride with the two Coreys in the 1988 comedy License to Drive.

If you were a youth in the '80s, chances are that you saw a whole lot of Corey Feldman and Corey Haim. I certainly did, of Feldman in particular due to his roles in Friday the 13th 4 and 5, Gremlins, The Goonies, and Stand by Me, but Haim's Lucas got its fair amount of viewings.

The two Coreys first combined forces on The Lost Boys, released in late July 1987. License to Drive, their second collaboration, was already filming by the end of that year and reached theatres in early July 1988.

The story is centered on Les Anderson, a sixteen-year-old boy who currently has two obsessions: cars and his beautiful classmate/literal girl of his dreams Mercedes Lane (Heather Graham in her first credited big screen role). He's eagerly anticipating his driving test and it becomes even more important that he pass it on the first try after he manages to set up with a date with Mercedes while pretending to already have his license.

Les takes his test on the day of his date with Mercedes and passes the driving portion, but fails the written exam. He does not receive his license to drive... But he can't let that minor inconvenience ruin his plans.

Sneaking out while his parents are asleep, Les takes his grandfather's pristine 1972 Cadillac out for a night on the town that gets much crazier than he ever could've imagined. By the time the sun rises, Grandpa's Caddy is no longer in pristine condition. That becomes a big part of the fun, seeing how much damage the vehicle will take and what will cause it.

As with The Lost Boys, Haim takes the lead while Feldman gets a show-stealing supporting role. Here, Feldman is Les's best friend Dean. When the date with Mercedes quickly goes in a less-than-ideal direction, "Did you ever imagine in all your life that you would see a Mercedes fit inside the trunk of a Cadillac?", Dean and fellow pal Charles (Michael Manasseri) get involved with Les's night out and that's when the irreparable damage really begins.

This is one of those movies that I watched several times on cable with my grandmother in the late '80s and early '90s. I enjoyed it as a child, although I never could relate to being excited over the prospect of getting a driver's license. I got a learner's permit at 16, gave driving a try... and hated it. I didn't get my license until I was 25, at which time a girl was my reason for finally going for it. But I'm not a Corey Haim character, so she discarded me a few days before my first test... My first test of three. Unlike Les, I passed the written exam on the first try, it was the driving half that I failed twice.

But I believe that I would've passed the driving half the first time if I had a examiner like Les gets in the movie. Played by James Avery, the examiner is one of the things that has stuck with me through the years. He only has one criteria for passing his drivers: he sets a full cup of coffee on the dashboard of the car and if they don't spill his coffee and burn him, they pass.

My favorite part of Les's night out with the Caddy is a sequence where a drunk driver briefly commandeers the vehicle. An uncredited Henry Alan Miller is hilarious in this small role, which is his second and only movie role after he played a doctor in 1987's Overboard.

The aspect of the film that has stuck with me the most through the years are the characters of Les's father and pregnant, going-into-labor-any-minute mother, played by Richard Masur and Carol Kane in great, very funny, very endearing performances.

Another cast member of note: We've written about several movies that feature Casey Siemaszko here on Life Between Frames - Back to the Future, Three O'Clock High, Young Guns, the aforementioned Stand by Me - this one features Casey's younger, cuter (to my tastes) sister Nina Siemaszko as Les's dweeby hippie twin sister Natalie.

Also, keep an eye out for an uncredited cameo appearance by the lovely Charlie Spradling of Ski School and Puppet Master 2, hanging out with Mercedes' ex-boyfriend in a club.

While The Lost Boys is still well known and highly regarded, License to Drive isn't as popular and kind of seems to almost have been forgotten, but it is a very enjoyable, fun movie in its own right.

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