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Thursday 5 September 2013

Burl reviews Hometown U.S.A.! (1978)

Shoop shoop, it’s Burl! Ha ha, today I’m traveling back to ’57 to review a nostalgia piece for you, one of the many pictures that was inspired by the success of American Graffiti! Ha ha, you all remember Sweater Girls of course, and I’m sure you’re familiar with Slumber Party ’57! Well, this one is called Hometown U.S.A., and it’s just up the road from Grandview U.S.A., I guess! Ha ha!
The main character in this one is one of the most irredeemable nerds ever put on film! Ha ha, this fellow – Rodney C. Duckworth, known around school as The Rodent – is no hidden hunk just waiting for somebody to take off his glasses and let down his hair! No, he’s a true-blue nerd through and through; and though there’s a contemporary framing story to the movie in which Rodney has become the president of General Motors, the main body of the movie never shows him achieving any kind of apotheosis, or even “losin’ it,” as is the usual goal in these pictures!
Ha ha, the story is really just a series of major humiliations visited upon The Rodent, spaced out with consistent low-level abasement and a traumatic encounter with a giantess! The story has Rodney “borrowing” his brother-in-law’s flashy new car and heading out for a night of cruising! Through a series of events he hooks up with the two coolest dudes in school – one a would-be James Dean, the other a would-be Elvis – and together the three high school students, not a one of them a day under twenty-five, embark on a mission to, as they say in On Golden Pond, “cruise chicks!”
The two fellows rechristen Rodney “Rod Heartbender,” and the three of them experience many attempts to woo the opposite sex! I guess the running gag is that the two lotharios are no better at scoring than Rodney is! But after a series of events that might be chalked up to simple ill fortune, Rodney actually has a chance to bend a few hearts – but blows his chance simply by being so hopeless! It’s genuinely chagrining to see this podgy young man go down in flames! Then he has a traumatic incident involving a prostitute who undergoes a startling transformation straight out of The Beast Within, and just as scary; and the rest is history!
The movie has a wall-to-wall soundtrack of golden oldies, which goes to show you how cheaply they could be licensed back then! Ha ha, I actually own the soundtrack album, the twenty tracks of which only represent about half the songs actually heard in the movie! The period atmosphere is pretty well done, on the whole! I won’t say it’s subtle - no, not with all those songs! - but they aren’t constantly talking about what year it is, and about Sputnik and whatever else was in the news that year! They just do their thing, ha ha!
The movie was directed by Jethro Bodine himself, and he does a reasonable job of it I suppose! Gary Springer, in the role of Rod Heartbender, really commits himself in the role, and for his trouble gets several fantasy sequences in which he’s a ladykiller, including one where he and a lady make sweet love in front of the entire high school class! Ha ha, that’s usually the kind of dream you wake up from feeling disconcerted, but not Rodney! While Hometown U.S.A. isn’t the greatest of the Graffiti rip-offs, it’s got a few special charms all its own, and for that reason I’m going to award it one and a half heartbenders!

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