Theme Song: Grandview, U.S.A. has a full soundtrack of original songs, however, presumably because the movie was not very popular, a proper soundtrack album was never released.
“Take Me Home to Grandview, U.S.A.” by Air Supply plays over the opening credits and is fucking terrible.
80s soundtrack mainstay Jack Mack and The Heart Attack (last seen on THe Betamax Rundown in Tuff Turf) penned this slice of americana-garbage called, “School Is Out”.
“Running Wild, Running Free” by Eddie and The Tide is the only song worth a damn on the soundtrack. Seriously, it’s a great 80s soundtrack jam.
Last but not least is “Steely Man” by Frank Musker, which gets full 80s-style music video treatment within the movie during a dream sequence. I don’t know what a steely man of action is and I doubt Frank Musker did either.
Interesting Dated References: Asking someone to “drop a card sometime” when they are leaving on a journey that will take them to another state. This is slang for sending a postcard, which is something people did before computers.
Best Line: Said by Patrick Swayze in reference to his degree of intoxication — “I couldn’t get it up right now if you were a pair of twins in a vat of Mazola oil.” Said by a father to his son — “You better straighten out that attitude of yours mister, or you and me are gonna go to the mat!”
Social Context: Grandview, U.S.A. was released in the middle of the early 80s coming-of-age teen-movie boom. Movies like Footloose were cleaning up at the box office. Producers were hungry for cocaine and teen-related scripts regardless of whether or not the story had substance. Grandview, U.S.A. has all the elements of a hit movie: Cast, soundtrack, Jamie Lee Curtis’ breasts, youthful rebellion. Unfortunately it lacks an engaging story arc. It almost seems like writer Ken Hixon put together a few vignettes from his childhood, did 73 lines of cocaine, looked at himself in the mirror while saying, “You’re a genius and a stud,” then called it a day.
Summary: Filmed almost entirely in Pontiac, Illinois, Grandview, U.S.A. opens with various scenes of quaint small-town American life: Guy mowing his lawn, small-business owners sweeping their stoops, out-of-breath fat kids playing … all the things you think of when Middle America comes to mind.
Tim (C. Thomas Howell, not pictured above) gets ready for prom, borrows his dad’s brand new Cadillac, and picks up his date. When they get to the prom, Chicago radio’s own Steve Dahl (pictured above) is doing the announcements. His voice arouses Tim’s date Bonnie so much she insists they go parking.
Meanwhile on the other side of the tracks, bitter divorcee Michele “Mike” Cody (Jamie Lee Curtis) is struggling to keep her deceased father’s speedway afloat. After getting harassed by the local inspector, she discuss the night’s upcoming derby with Slam Webster (Patrick Swayze), who is the the local drunk/demolition derby champion.
And then back on the previous side of the tracks, while attempting to sink his hand into his date, Tim manages to instead sink his dad’s car in the muddy river bank, and while walking back to town they pass the speedway.
Tim asks for a tow from the extremely long-butt jean-wearing Mike (Jamie Lee Curtis), but she makes him wait until the end of the derby, so Tim spends most of that time staring at Mike as she smokes and spits. After the race, Slam (Swayz-dog) ends up giving the tow. Over the course of the ride we learn Slam is paranoid his wife (played by Jennifer Jason Leigh) is cheating on him.
And there we have it. Doesn’t this all sound quaint as fuck? Because it is. Who can’t relate to young Tim’s struggle to free himself from small town life and his parents’ expectations? Who doesn’t sympathize with struggling business owner Mike and her masculine choice of nickname? Who hasn’t been right there with Slam abusing increasingly illegal substances to excess while stalking the remnants of a crumbling relationship?
Sure, these characters are the American everyman (and woman); and as a whole Grandview U.S.A. can make for pleasant and nostalgic viewing. The acting, scenery, and dialogue is all better than average, but the main fucking issue: It takes almost 50 minutes for the crux of the plot to reveal itself, and right when it does, the entire movie devolves into a thrown-together love triangle that resolves itself with little to no explanation just in time for the ending.
Said crux? Tim’s dad is a big shot realtor who is in cahoots with a bunch of developers to shut down the speedway and build a fancy country club. This is a problem for Tim because he starts to hang out at the speedway and fall in love with Mike, going so far as to have the music video sequence fantasy mentioned above.
I don’t know what director Randal Kleiser (Grease) was going for with this sequence. Perhaps he was trying to pad the length by a few minutes while at the same time trying prove he’s still a capable musical/music video director.
Okay, so at some big city hall meeting (consisting of 5 people), Tim brings to light his father’s dastardly plan. This impresses Mike so much she agrees to buy Tim a bottle of wine. The fact that he wants wine impresses her so much she takes Tim back to her trailer. The fact that he was willing to go back to a trailer impresses her so much she makes love to him. Yes, nude scene for those who care (old dudes you work with).
Somewhere in between there, Swayz-dog has an awesome scene in which he confronts his wife (Jennifer Jason Leigh) as she’s getting into her boyfriend Donny’s (Troy Donahue) Trans Am. He gets to kick the shit out of it and jump on top a whole bunch.
It’s a great moment and a good reminder of how humorous Swayze could be. Overall he does a great job as drunk cuckold Slam. A lot of people forget Swayze proved himself as an actor early on (The Outsiders, Uncommon Valor , this movie , Red Dawn , Youngblood) before turning to heartthrobbing shit in the late 80s. You should stop using his name as an ironic 80s reference when you are telling your full-of-shit jokes at parties full of dildos.
Okay, somewhere else in there Slam started to fall in love with Mike. He shows up at her trailer in the morning to make breakfast and sees Tim getting dressed. He leaves upset and accuses Mike of favoring Tim because of his age. Later that night at the demolition derby which, having paid “entry fee” to Mike, Tim is now competing in, Slam tries successfully to injure Tim.
After the race Slam gets a tractor and destroys his house while his wife is inside having a bondage session with Troy Donahue. The tone of the whole scene is slapstick and totally out of place.
Meanwhile, Tim is released from the hospital and he and Mike return home to find the speedway engulfed in flames. It turns out Mike’s brother with special needs lit the place up because he was afraid of losing it.
Then, having realized how pointless existence is, Tim decides to go home with his dad. Also seeing that life is pointless, Tim’s dad no longer cares about college and supports his son going to work at a pet store in Chicago.
Having realized sex with recently graduated teenage boys is physically but not emotionally fulfilling, Mike decides to bail Slam out of jail so they can become boyfriend/girlfriend. Slam agrees because, having destroyed his home, he has nothing else going on.
The next day Tim says goodbye to his friend John Cusack and gets the fuck on a bus out of town. Right as they are about to leave, Slam and Mike pull the bus over to speak with him. They give him the old speedway pickup truck and a bunch of cash from the insurance settlement so he can go to Florida to study oceanography.
Apparently Slam is just happy to be sending Tim out of town so he can now turn Mike’s vagina into his own personal demolition derby course. Then the movie ends with Tim driving off to Florida to accrue college loan debt through earning a degree in a career field where he can’t possibly find a viable job.
Poster and Box Art: The poster, much like the movie, lacks focus. Making Jamie Lee Curtis the main focus does present a good point: The film as a whole may have fared better if the Tim and Slam storylines were trimmed down and the movie was more into a “small business versus big business development” film, a la Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo.
Availability: Out of print for many years, Grandview, U.S.A. was finally released on DVD in 2011 because a bunch of people who insist on seeing Jamie Lee Curtis’ boobs wrote letters. Grandview, U.S.A. also appears on the always amazing IMCDB as well.