The Sure Thing (1985) — A dorky road trip through romance country

“I’m not going to bed with you, I’m going to bed in a bed you happen to be in also.”

Justin’s rating: Two halves of a shared stick of gum

Justin’s review: I am pretty picky and demanding of romantic comedies. For me, a romantic comedy must a right mix of whimsy, repartee, likable people, amusing situations, and John Cusack. Obviously, I’ve limited myself to just a few selections on the video store rack, but I’m a man of discriminating taste. Thus, I was more than pleasantly surprised to find and watch The Sure Thing for the first time 15 years after it was released in theaters.

This was Cusack’s first big film, and it’s slightly off-kilter that they place his character in college (he was just 17 at the time of filming). This is especially glaring when you consider that after this film, he starred in two age-appropriate high school comedies (Better Off Dead and Say Anything). But this is only a passing irony.

A little disappointed with college life and his English major, Gib (Cusack) finds a purpose when he receives a letter and a photo from Anthony “Pre-Jon-Luc Picard Hairstyle” Edwards describing a woman who’s a “sure thing” for Gib. The catch? Gib has to travel to the opposite coast in just a few days to meet her. And to make this happen, he’s got to share a ride with Alison (Spaceballs’ Daphne Zuniga), a fellow English major who’s only slightly warmer than a frozen popsicle. I always get Zuniga confused with Say Anything’s Ione Skye, but that’s my problem, not yours.

So on one very shallow level, you have a saga about a guy’s desire to have a meaningless hookup with some fantasy girl as some sort of American Dream. But fortunately that immaturity is largely overshadowed by the romantic tension that brews between Gib the slacker and Alison the cold fish. A bulk of this movie is a road trip, and every convention is used to keep the unlikely pair together for the journey.

As they go through unlikely encounters and obstacles on their journey, the film takes time to pick apart the core flaws of both of our leads. Gib is riddled with an immature mindset of how love and sex works, which leads to many botched romantic moments. His journey is learning to stop seeing women as conquests that melt into a puddle if just the right line is uttered. And Alison has her own unbalanced priorities, where an obsession with her career track is causing her to miss out on developing as a more well-rounded human being.

Separately, they’re not much to look at. Together? Together they begin to make a pair. Gib teaches her things like shotgunning a beer while she, well, she basically nags him to hold a higher standard for things like junk food. We realize long before they do that each one brings out the better in the other, and that they both belong together.

This may not be director Rob Reiner’s deepest work, but it is effortlessly fun and enjoyable. Mismatched buddies (or love interests) on road trips is one of my favorite comedic sub-genres, and The Sure Thing is right at home alongside other great trips like Vacation, Tommy Boy, Dumb and Dumber, and Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. It’s also far more of a thoughtful romcom than a screwy ’80s sex comedy, no matter what the title suggests.

Truly, The Sure Thing isn’t the deepest romantic film, but it’s just chock-full (what’s a chock, anyway?) of snappy dialogue and funny situations that I like it even so. Cusack shows enormous promise at the beginning of his film career with his trademark droll wit and exuberant outlets of expression. It just seems like most of the movies he’s in wouldn’t work quite the same without him to fill the lead character. Plus, and I think I just speak for me, I really liked Gib’s faded leather jacket. I want one. My birthday’s coming up soon.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s