Sunday, April 29, 2007

Shine sweet freedom...

Still haven't gotten to "Grey's," "Scrubs" or "Earl" yet (waiting to watch them with my wife), but I did waste a good chunk of yesterday afternoon re-watching "Running Scared" on one of my hi-def movie channels. No, not the Paul Walker "Running Scared." I'm talking the Billy Crystal/Gregory Hines "Running Scared," which I must have watched three dozen times on HBO in the late '80s.

I hadn't seen it in close to two decades (insert obligatory expression about aging and/or the flying of time here), and some of it still holds up very well: the ridiculous chemistry between Crystal and Hines (this may have been the only '80s buddy movie where the leads actually seemed like buddies), the banter with them and Joey Pants and Dan Hedaya, the car chase on the elevated train tracks. Hell, I'm not even that troubled by the notion of Billy Crystal as a hotshot cop who kills a dozen or so guys in the movie and recites dialogue like "If you hurt her, you'll never be dead enough" with a straight face.

But then, in the middle of the movie, comes the sequence where the angry police captain forces Hughes and Costanzo to take a vacation to Key West, and My. God. The clothes.

Was it actually considered cool in 1986 to wear a rainbow-pastel skintight tank top, tight red shorts and flaming red roller skates (as Crystal does at one point in the montage), or a baby blue belly shirt, similarly high-and-tight shorts and blue roller skates (as Hines does)? I had hoped to find YouTube evidence of this quintessentially '80s montage, but the best I could find was the music video for Michael McDonald's "Sweet Freedom," which features a few clips from the movie but is mostly Hines and Crystal in slightly less embarrassing clothes goofing around with McDonald. (There's also a clip splicing together several scenes about their bulletproof fake taxi, but that's not as much fun, plus it cuts Hines off in the middle of the punchline.)

So, several questions on this overcast Sunday:
  • Anybody else have fond memories of this movie?
  • What movies from your childhood contain some element (wardrobe, dialogue, adult themes you didn't recognize at the time) that's completely mortifying seen through adult eyes?
  • Like Crystal as a badass cop, what other actors have surprised you by being convincing in a role to which they're so obviously unsuited?
And for you vulgarians, I leave you with an exchange between the two cops and a lab tech that was, unsurprisingly, 14-year-old Alan's most-quoted bit of dialogue from the movie (parents who read this blog with your children -- there are so many of you, I know -- please turn away at this time):
"This is real shit. This coke is pure shit."
"It's good shit, right?"
"I mean bad shit."
"Bad shit like, 'this shit is bad?'"
"It's shit shit. This shit isn't worth shit."

15 comments:

Randy said...

It's funny, I've got huge love for this movie... it was one I had on video (taped off HBO) and I used to watch it every couple of weeks back when having my own VCR was kind of a new thing for me.

What's funny is that a buddy of mine just recently caught it again on cable, and as a result, we've both been simultaneously drawn back into talking about it, including quoting Billy Crystal's famous "Oh no!" voice at one another. So it was kind of funny timing that you just re-watched as well.

Short answer: Yep, definitely got some love for this movie.

As for dated clothes, etc. I'm sure there are some, but I can't think of any at the moment. Actors who surprised me, though...

Michael Keaton as Batman. He wasn't perfect, and his Bruce Wayne was basically him mugging for the camera, but I remember being surprised at how dark he made Batman.

Robin Williams in One Hour Photo. He'd done dramatic before, in Dead Poet's Society, Good Morning Vietnam, etc. but usually there was an undercurrent of his jokey improv personality. In One Hour Photo, he was just a quiet, disturbed, dangerous man.

Jason L. said...

Running Scared is a traditional Christmas move in our household, along with Mixed Nuts. I had not seen either movie before marring into Katey's family.

I think my favorite scene in Running Scared is where Hines knocks on the apartment door and gives the finger to the 7 year old in retaliation. It's mean spirited, but sooo funny because he's doing something you'd love to do, get back at a small child who has made fun of you.

Anonymous said...

just an idea, since i've never seen the movie, but the clothes sound gay in a very stereotypical way. maybe it was a send-up of key west's reputation as a historically gay-friendly place?

Alan Sepinwall said...

just an idea, since i've never seen the movie, but the clothes sound gay in a very stereotypical way. maybe it was a send-up of key west's reputation as a historically gay-friendly place?

Except that the entire sequence features the two guys dating a series of hot women in bikinis.

Anonymous said...

Earl was lame and is getting lamer.

The Grey's experience just isn't the same when after I watch it I can't come to this site the next day and join the complaining.

Tom G said...

"Excuse me, we're from Noisebusters. Do you know where the Menudo concert is?"

jim treacher said...

My favorite part was when they killed Jimmy Smits.

Lane said...

my friends and I still quote "he didn't know Ipswich clams" and "deut-er-ooooonamy" all the time.

We are nerds.

Anonymous said...

I absolutely love this movie. I also love White Nights. Hines as a Communist? Does that qualify as having "surprised you by being convincing in a role to which they're so obviously unsuited?" Whenever he popped up you were sure to get a great performance, even on Will & Grace. There is just something about quirky buddy movies like this, or Sneakers to name another, that I find so enjoyable.
My take on the clothing - it showed how fish out of water they were in Key West.
I still laugh at the scene where they are driving around in Smits car talking to him on the cell phone - "Tell him I said hello!"

bebe said...

OK, I've never seen this movie, either. But when I read your description of their rollerskating outfits, I was sure I experiencing one of those moments when I suddenly "get" something about a Muppets movie that I never noticed as a kid without a reference.

In The Muppets Take Manhattan, there's a scene where Gregory Hines is getting ready to go rollerskating, and he's wearing red short shorts, a pink tank top, and knee-high socks. After Piggy steals his skates and he helps Piggy and Kermit make up, he says "keep the skates! I just like to run around in shorts."

I thought for a second when I read this that it must have been a reference to this movie. But upon further research, the Muppet movie actually came out two years earlier. So...neither outfit is meant to be ironic? They were considered normal enough outfits for people to just wear?

Marty McKee said...

RUNNING SCARED is a fun movie with the fakest-looking fake snow I've ever seen.

For bottom-of-the-barrel buddy cops, you need to see Jay Leno and Pat Morita (!) in COLLISION COURSE and Forest Whitaker and Anthony Edwards (!) in DOWNTOWN.

Lisa said...

I saw this movie more than once in the theater. Of course I remember it as a summer movie during a summer when you went to movies for the air conditioning. Also I loved Billy Crystal's "Oh no!" voice. Didn't he say something about "hot cocoa with mini-marshmallows?"

Jim Teacher said...

Not to turn this into an insane-ass-'80s-clothing-nostalgia thread, but I rewatched 'The Last Dragon' last month after a decade or two.

Holy El DeBarge.

Sars said...

I love this movie, AND I love "Stakeout."

Anonymous said...

Loved this movie as a pre-teen and still do.