Cage #4: Racing with the Moon (1984)
This is the first movie of Nicolas Cage’s career that I can honestly say isn’t worth watching. That means it’s basically harmless and forgettable. Even bad movies, really bad movies, can be worth a watch (see “The Best of Times”). Racing With the Moon isn’t bad, it’s just sorta…there. Which is bad enough, I suppose. It begins, some stuff happens of varying import, then it’s over.
What we got here is your totally standard coming of age story set in a realm of magical nostalgia. Think Stand By Me, but with more abortions. I’m choosing to ignore the fact that Stand By Me came out two years after this picture. There’s even a race against a train like in Stand By Me, though the roles in the contest are reversed.
Sean Penn (“Hopper”) and Nicolas Cage (“Nicky”… Man, I hate when characters have the same name as the actor portraying them.) are best buds in a small California town in 1942. They’ve got a couple months before they are shipped off to fight in WW2, so they decide to make the best of the time they have left. To Hopper, this includes trying to make the rich girl at school his girlfriend.
Notable is the presence of Crispin Glover as “Gatsby Boy,” a rich brat at the bowling alley. Notable because they were both in “The Best of Times,” both of their acting debuts. Are they still in touch, you think? Does anybody know anybody who knows either of these gentlemen? I need to get them in the same room again.
Well, anyway, the rich girl it turns out ain’t so rich. She lives in a rich family’s house – in the servant’s quarters more or less because her mom is the maid. Yadda yadda yadda, Nicky’s girlfriend needs an abortion – meaning Nicky is the one who REALLY needs the abortion – but those cost money. Hopper asks his “rich” lady friend for the necessary funds and the whole thing falls apart. She thinks he only wanted her because she was rich.
Who the hell is this movie for? People who fondly remember the days of soda jerks, secret abortions, and manually operated bowling alleys? I don’t know which of those is worse… I bet it’s good for teenagers because they are a self-important crowd and here are two teenagers preparing to go to war, that most selfless and heroic of acts, and their minuscule problems that feel so large to kids. These guys aren’t heroes, though, they’re just a couple of dumb asses who enjoy resenting their lot in life.
It’s a sitcom structure in the end. Some physical humor linking together a story of boy meets girl. Personal bonds are tested and broken, but everybody sees the error of their ways and gets back together just in time to go fight a war. It’s about as deep as the holes in a bowling ball. If I had to get ten back alley abortions, I’d only get four of them with Hopper and Nicky.