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Hot Pursuit

Few actors have enjoyed a career as strangely successful as John Cusack's. After a quick appearance in Class, a notable minor role in Sixteen Candles, and playing a lead in the Disney live-action effort The Journey of Natty Gann, he starred in a handful of teenage romantic comedies that led to what has become the ultimate teen romance, Cameron Crowe's Say Anything (1989). Since then his career has been made up of roles that are normally a little off, but usually fascinating; they seem to be projects he wants to make. Yet for such an iconoclast, Cusack is considered an A-range star and is often courted to do mainstream efforts (Con Air, America's Sweethearts). Perhaps it's the lasting success of those teen films — notably 1985's The Sure Thing, Better Off Dead, and 1986's One Crazy Summer — that created the strong following Cusack enjoys. And if one takes his teen films as a piece then the Zeppo of them was one of his last, 1987's Hot Pursuit — and once watched it's easy to see why it's not kept in the same company as his earlier films. Cusack stars as Dan Bartlett, who's set to go on a Caribbean cruise with his girlfriend Lori Cronenberg (Wendy Gazelle) and her family, only to have to stay in school after flunking a chemistry test. Unfortunately, once he tells Lori the bad news his teacher cuts him a break and Dan begins his hot pursuit of the Cronenbergs — but at every turn he remains inches away from catching up to them. He tries everything from hitching a ride with some stoners (led by the always interesting David Keith), co-sailing a ship with a stubborn captain (Robert Loggia), and even hijacking a plane. But it turns out to be a good thing Dan isn't with the Cronenberg's as they are in danger: One of their yacht's crewmen (Ben Stiller) is a criminal who — with his partners (including Ben's dad Jerry Stiller) — wants to steal their boat, leaving it up to Dan to save the day and prove to Lori's father that he has cojones. Hot Pursuit jumps from genre to genre and never satisfies one of them — you need a tight script to make the comedy of frustration work, and here the premise is just stretched too thin. As always, Cusack is a solid lead and makes the film palatable for his fans, but the most fascinating aspect of the picture is its writer/director, Steven Lisberger, whose previous effort was Tron. One wonders why this would be his follow-up project, but after watching Hot Pursuit it's easy to see why he's been pitching Tron 2.0. Paramount's DVD presents the film in anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) with Dolby 2.0 Surround and no extras. Keep-case.

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