Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Outsiders

I stayed up last night and watched my current Netflix, The Outsiders: The Complete Novel. The Outsiders was a movie I watched about a million times as an early teenager, first on HBO, then after I taped it, on VHS tape. I first read the book in 6th grade for a reading class. I think my experience with the movie is probably very typical for guys my age. It was a great "boy" story, plus the fact that it was a little bit naughty (the language, the violence) made it just that much more appealing.

When I heard that they were recutting the film to include extra scenes, I immediately added it to my Netflix queue. I hadn't seen the movie in probably 15 years, so what a great way to revisit something that was so important to a certain period of my life. And I have to say that the new scenes are good -- in fact, it had been so long since I'd seen it I couldn't even remember how it started. With a new beginning, I was even more confused. But when I finally saw what had originally been the beginning (Ponyboy and Johnny meeting Dallas on a Tulsa street corner), it was like something was dragged out of my subconscious.

The acting is pretty solid for a young cast. They capture the feel of the period pretty well, and it avoids a lot of the 80s cliches that were so pervasive in films of that time. At times, you feel like you're watching a movie made during the 60s rather than the 80s. And that's a credit to the director and the cinematographer. So much cheese came out of the 80s (not that there's anything wrong with that) and I'm glad that this movie avoided that. It is funny seeing a very young Tom Cruise as a greaser, and whatever did happen to C. Thomas Howell (answer per IMDB -- not much of any significance since Soul Man except for apparently a role in 24.) And Emilio Estevez as Two-Bit Matthews steals pretty much every scene he's in ("I hear they stamp your face into gorilla cookies!", eating beer and chocolate cake for breakfast among other things)

But what really was a deal breaker for whether I would buy this version or the original was the new music inserted into the movie. The score has been completely excised and replaced with songs from the time period. Well, the presence of these songs is very jarring and out of place, at times even obscuring the dialogue. It just didn't work for me. I'd rather have the original version and miss the extra scenes than have to deal with the insertion of these songs.

I think what I like best about the story of The Outsiders is that in the midst of all these tough guys is Ponyboy, the "sensitive" one. But he's also tough. It's good to try to convey to boys that it's okay to be sensitive and "feel things differently" as his brother Sodapop says.

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