Saturday, November 23, 2013

Review: Josh and S.A.M.

Director: Billy Weber
New Line Cinema VHS

Josh and S.A.M. is like no other kid's movie ever made. The back of the box notes "Home Alone meets Thelma and Louise in this fun filled comedy." Marketing comparisons are always stupid. If I was to write the box quote for this movie, it would read: "Goonies and Terminator meets Badlands in this comedic drama."

Directed by Billy Weber, editor of several Terrence Malick films as well as Top Gun and the good Beverly Hills Cop movies. This was Weber's directorial debut. It is also his final credit as a director. Most unfortunate.

Josh is a 12 year 85 pound nerd with a chip on his shoulder. His brother Sam is the most intense, athletic, 8 year old on the planet. They live with their single mother. The brothers head off to spend the final days of summer with their Dad in Florida. While there, Josh and Sam learn their mother is about to marry a French Accountant and move to France for a year. Rather than be trapped with his jock Step-Brother's a pushy dick of a father, the persuasive and brilliant Josh comes up with a plan to break away.

Josh, S.A.M. and Liberty.
They head back home to see their Mom before her nuptials to the stereotypical french assnut. Their plane lands in Dallas due to bad weather conditions.

Josh Convinces Sam that his is a Cyborg that has been recently activated to fight in a secret war in Africa. Josh tells Sam that the only way to avoid being sold to the Pentagon is to head to Canada where they Government will not be able to find him. When Sam learns that his name is an acronym for Strategically Altered Mutant, He now understands why he's different. He is a killing machine.

In their hotel in Dallas, Josh attempts to make his exit through a High School Reunion party. He grabs a name tag of a woman that Derek Baxter (a drunken redneck played by Chris Penn) had a fling with. Baxter thinks Josh is his son and takes Josh and Sam to the woman's parents house, Josh tells him he isn't his son and he goes berserk. Sam pops Baxter in the head with a billiard ball and Josh cracks his skull with a pool cue.

Josh believes he killed Drunken Derek. They steal his rented Pontiac and head for Canada to avoid going to war, and also to avoid the gas chamber. Josh makes up a story about a White Harriet Tubman that looks like a juicebox mascot and sneaks child Cyborgs over the northern border called the Liberty Maid and how he hopes to meet up with her. Sam believes with her expertise, they'll make it. Little does Josh know that The Liberty Maid shows up. Teenage runaway Alison (Martha Plimpton), meets the description and goes along with the story, so she can use the sweet stolen 1993 Pontiac Grand Prix to get where she needs to go.

Josh and S.A.M. is a rare breed of Kids movie that does not insult it's audience. The story is bizarre, but never goes too far that these things couldn't happen. It's rare that a movie such as this develops interesting and likeable characters. For as much of a wiener Josh can be, he does what he has to do to survive in a world where he is out matched physically with his cunning and ability to coerce others. This is not the type of film that's a laugh a second. I wouldn't even necessarily call this film a comedy.

While the film is certainly funny, the meat of the film is the story of feeling alienated for one reason or another. The young characters form a bond that stems from their anger at the world. For a film targeted at kids and young teens, there are many relatable themes and . . . I can't believe I'm saying this. . . Lessons that can be taken from the film.

Why this film never found an audience is confusing to me. To put this film's failure in to perspective:

Budget: $18,000,000
Box Office Gross: $1,528,163

It's very well made. It's fun and it's paced in such a manner where I never feel like walking away. Comparing this film to Home Alone was a mistake. While I very much (still) enjoy Home Alone, Josh and S.A.M. was a film for kids that read books, watched grown-up movies, or felt alienated, bullied, or different. My comparisons to Badlands and Goonies is much more accurate. It's thoughtful and lovable. . . but total madness.

As far as I can tell, Josh and S.A.M. has never been released on Region 1 DVD. The VHS can easily be had for under $5, so it's no big deal. It can also be viewed on Youtube for free.
Who the fuck is that Jabroni? . . . 
I will leave you with a brilliant exchange between Sam and his Step-Brothers Curtis and Leon that occurs at the end of the film:

Curtis: Did Josh really kill a guy? 
Sam: Dad is trying to cover for him, but I saw him. He beat him over the head with a pool stick he was so mad. 
Leon: What was he so mad about? 
Sam: The guy called him a homo. 

- M.McSlam

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