James Cole Clay has been working as a film critic for the better part of a decade covering new releases, blu ray reviews and the occasional drive-in cult classic. His writing is dedicated to discovering social politics through diverse voices, primarily focusing on Women In Film and LGBTQ cinema.
James Clay//Film Critic
These retro VHS titles from Mill Creek Entertainment are a real trip. Go take a look at their catalogue and see the mostly forgotten, yet star studded movies that are brought back from relative obscurity. (We’ve covered most of these over the years.) Titles like Bruce Willis’ flop HUDSON HAWK, to a little known Robert Downey Jr. vehicle TRUE BELIEVER and (my personal favorite) VIBES, starring Jeff Goldblum and Cyndi Lauper, have entered their collection.
Each month these movies are announced it’s like a trip down memory lane, and even if the films themselves are great, the head scratching experience of saying, “Oh, yeah. I used to see this on cable” is kind of priceless. Plus, each release has a slipcover filled with detail including faux stickers and a protruding VHS.
This month the titles included THE FRESHMAN, starring Marlon Brando and Matthew Broderick; the odd Kirk Cameron/Dudley Moore bodyswap comedy LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON; Ralph Macchio in CROSSROADS; and Rutger Hauer as a blind samurai in BLIND FURY.
The only complaint is the transfers are a bit lacking boasting only a 480p signal. Purists will say this makes them more authentic.
THE FRESHMAN, directed by Andrew Bergman, is essentially a send-up of THE GRADUATE mixed with THE GODFATHER (for reasons that will become obvious) with a speckle of wildlife activism.
The 1990 film nabbed Broderick when he was very hot in his career and could easily green light a picture, while Brando was still at least trying as an actor and playing off his most iconic role. It’s fairly innocuous, but tons of fun.
Clark Kellogg (Broderick) is a freshman film student who just moved to New York City to pursue a career in the industry. Fresh off the bust he gets all of his belongings knicked by a quintessential NYC grifter (Bruno Kirby). Feeling duped the naive Kellogg tracks down the grifter who by happenstance is the nephew to the shady importer Carmine Sabbatini (Brando) who has a certain resemblance to a Don Corleone from THE GODFATHER. Sabbatini has a high paying gig that Clark can’t refuse, it’s just not what you may think. Clark comes to find out that Carmine has a scam involving a Komodo Dragon, and the he’s at the center of the plan.
As the film unfolds it’s a comedy of errors that has a few twists and turns that make this an incredibly enjoyable sleeper. Brando playing off of his Godfather schtick is a bit hokie and Broderick does his best to keep up with this titan actor who has a reputation for being an equally as large “a-hole.” However, this yarn turns into an unpredictable third act that plays out with a few fake out and ultimately a heartwarming end.
RENT OR BUY: If you’ve been cherrypicking the VHS titles you want from Mill Creek, this is one we can recommend you blind buy. Mainly because it’s inexpensive and looks so sharp on the shelf.
LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON
Remember Kirk Cameron before he took up the one man job to save faith-based movies with such a sanctimonious smile it’s vomit inducing? Yeah me too, and through his run on GROWING PAINS, Cameron only made a hand full of other projects. One being this body swap comedy starring him and Dudley Moore (whose career was cooling) where a father/son swap bodies because of a magical potion the film does a mediocre job of setting up, and the other is a anti-abortion drama called LISTEN TO ME. This is a by the number movies with zero originality that somehow coasts off of its whacky tone, MTV centric portrayal of youthful rebellion, a plucky Sean Astin and Cameron is actually pretty solid.
The real nuts and bolts of LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON is Moore and Cameron have clashing personalities and zero communication skills, but the lessons they’ve learned along the way will bring them closer together. What makes a body swap comedy work so well is seeing the other actor adopt the eccentricities of their counterpart that will be physically jarring to the audience and then comedy ensues. There’s very little of this here other than the broad stokes of Moore who delights in jumping on tables screaming “Jeremiah was a bullfrog” repeatedly. His strange energy ignites, while Cameron is trying to play thing a little more stiff. It all has middling results in long run, yet it will never not be fun watching Sean Astin follow his best friend on a mystical quest.
RENT OR BUY: LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON is utterly forgettable, but gets a wave of nostalgia brewing with a few scenes. Maybe if you’re looking to add this to the collection give it a rent before diving in fully.
The retro VHS releases will hit shelves on January 12th.