“I think it’s the insects’ turn.”
The Scoop: 1988 R, directed by Steve De Jarnatt and starring Anthony Edwards, Mare Winningham, and Denise Crosby
Tagline: There are 70 minutes to the end of the world. Where can you hide?
Summary Capsule: Guy gets a heads-up on nuclear war, then does everything wrong.
Justin’s rating: A feel-good family romp!
Justin’s review: Before the stint on E.R. that made him incredibly famous, Anthony Edwards specialized in playing a spectacled wimpy geek that the 1980s seemed to love and cherish so very much. Between Revenge of the Nerds and Gotcha! and How I Got Into College, Edwards filled the “everyman” roles that gave us hope that we, too, would grow up to find ourselves the star of a major motion picture or Tom Cruise’s wingman. Unfortunately, Hollywood soon went for the heroin models and steroid addicts, and the only ones to take up Edwards’ mantle were eternal prepubescents like Justin Long.
Edwards is a likable guy, even before he opens his mouth. In Miracle Mile, he does a lot of talking before he opens his mouth, because the entire first ten minutes or so consist of a dating montage coupled with patented Edwardsian narration. Aww, he’s dating that lady who was the vet in Turner & Hooch. Aww, he’s blowing $1200 on lobsters just to set them free. Aww, he’s received an accidental phone call telling him that nuclear armageddon is shortly at hand.
In the early morning following a missed date with newfound squeeze, Harry (Edwards) picks up a ringing phone on the street to hear the frantic, panicked voice of a missile silo operator in North Dakota screaming about the end of the world. Before his call is cut short by gunfire, the voice relays that they’ve all got fifty minutes to get the hell out of dodge before everything goes kablooey. Then Harry is left all alone with this overwhelming information, and he stumbles back into the diner to look at his script and wonder when the “comedy” was going to kick in. He’s good at comedy. Not so good at end-of-the-world type stuff.
Unable to contain his terrible secret for more than ten seconds, Harry tells the diner and sets off a panic that ripples out from that point. I don’t know who you usually tell about nuclear war, but people who go to a diner at 4:00 AM are probably not the stable bedrocks you’d expect to take this news calmly and rationally. There’s a lot of hand-flinging and can-winging and Denise Crosby on the biggest portable phone you’ve ever seen talking to her sources to see if this is for reals or not.
Oh, it’s for reals. Or is it?
The film from then on out is Harry’s quest to find his newfound love interest and get her out of the city before the missiles hit. If he would’ve been the type of guy to calmly get in his car, drive to her place, pick her up, and drive away, this would’ve been accomplished but probably bored the audience terribly. Therefore, Harry acts like a maniacal idiot for the duration, jumping out of cars, waving pistols around, setting cops on fire, and screaming to just about everyone that the world is going to end. It’s only much later, when L.A. is in the grips of terror and riot, that Harry muses if he’s the cause of this panic over something he’s not 100% sure will actually happen.
You think, Harry?
At no point past the phone call is Miracle Mile anywhere near dull, although it is messy and unnecessarily complicated. For instance, Harry spends a huge gob of time trying to hire a helicopter and find a pilot and round up everyone that needs to get out of town – wasted time that he could’ve just gotten in a car and driven in a straight line without any worries. Why “helicopter” is the only route to salvation is not clearly explained, especially since the roads don’t become completely jammed until the very end of the movie. There’s other questionable leaps of logic, as well, such as how Denise Crosby tries to convince everyone that Antarctica is the place you want to go to after the world’s been carpet bombed by nukes. Yeah, ’cause the penguins totally want you crashing at their pad.
In the hands of a better director, a bigger budget or actors who don’t look like they just stepped off of the light-and-fluffy-comedy train, Miracle Mile could’ve really been something huge. As it is, it’s a passing curiosity that makes you wonder just what people on the ’80s were on.
Cocaine. The answer is cocaine.
- This film was originally written to be one of the segments in Twilight Zone: The Movie.
- Anthony Edwards voiceover time!
- Dude, it’s Tasha Yar
- “Music composed and performed by Tangerine Dream”. Awesome.
- Love… in the time of museums
- Okay, enough with the furtive glances already!
- FREE THE LOBSTERS! In a funny postscript… the lobsters got caught again right away.
- Nothing says “cool” like a guy who plays jazz trombone. Young man, is there something funny about the word tromboner?
- A tubesteak! Why, golly!
- “Backstroke in a vat of dragon piss”? Who’s writing the hobo dialogue here?
- Your nuclear plan is to go to Antarctica? Because there’s water there?
- That cell phone is large enough to club a seal to death with
- Atoms and spirits? Sheesh, worst end of the world talk ever.
Gerstead: Pal, it’s after four in the morning. All of the helicopter pilot bars are closed.
Julie Peters: People are gonna help each other, aren’t they? Rebuilding things?
Harry Washello: I think it’s the insects’s turn.
Landa: Mike, I want you and Susie to make a list for me. People who we might want to bring along. Scientists, leaders, great minds. I want it in five minutes, okay?
If you liked this movie, try these:
- Deep Impact
- Jericho TV series
- How I Got Into College