[box cover]

Johnny Be Good

What the heck happened to Anthony Michael Hall? Maybe Lorne Michaels knows, because it was about the time that Hall joined the cast of Saturday Night Live in 1985 that he began his transformation from adorable geek to thick-necked lug. (Then again, the same thing happened to Fred Savage, and he was never an SNL regular....) Whatever the reason, it's a true shame, because few of the teen stars of the mid-'80s were as appealing as Hall in his Breakfast Club/Sixteen Candles/Weird Science glory days. But, alas, he'd definitively left intentional geekdom behind him by the time he made Johnny Be Good in 1988; bulked up and jocked out, Hall trades braces for shades and a mini-mullet as high school football star Johnny Walker in Bud Smith's flat teen comedy. Treated more like a god than a teenager by the college recruiters desperate to have his name atop their team roster, Johnny lets his good fortune go to his head. As he's wined and dined at schools all over the country, Johnny keeps holding out for the best "deal" — ostensibly so he can take care of his hardworking mom and button-cute younger siblings, but really because he gets caught up in the world of fast cars and faster women. Meanwhile, his girlfriend Georgia (Uma Thurman, in her film debut) is fed up, his best friend Leo (a totally loopy Robert Downey Jr., who provides the movie's few real laughs) has his own agenda, and his out-of-touch coach (Paul Gleason, essentially reprising his Breakfast Club role) is doing whatever it takes to make sure he ends up on top. All of which might have been funny if Hall's Johnny had undergone any kind of perceptible transformation during the movie. But aside from a few wardrobe changes and a heartfelt speech or two, Johnny is more or less static — he's cocky and unflappable when the movie starts, and he's not much different by the time it ends. Hall purposely plays Johnny cool and calm, probably to distinguish the character from some of the chattier, more excitable (read: geekier) parts he'd had before; it's a shame, since his fast-talking charisma was always one of the most appealing things about him. Downey Jr. does his best to pep things up, but because they're so out of step with the rest of the movie, some of his rants end up feeling funny strange rather than funny ha-ha. And Thurman does an excellent job of standing around and looking pretty (to be fair, her part is pretty minor, and she does the best she can with it). Johnny Be Good may be teen fluff, but even fluff can be better than this. MGM's DVD offers a fine full-screen transfer, clear Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround audio (a Spanish Surround track and English, French, and Spanish subtitles are also available), and the theatrical trailer. Keep-case.
—Betsy Bozdech

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