THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT Copyright (c) 1995, Landmark Communications, Inc. DATE: Monday, September 18, 1995 TAG: 9509160049 SECTION: DAILY BREAK PAGE: E5 EDITION: FINAL TYPE: Movie Review SOURCE: BY MAL VINCENT, MOVIE CRITIC LENGTH: Medium: 77 lines
EVERYONE, WITH the possible exception of Brad Pitt or Alicia Silverstone, has felt like Angus at one time or another.
Angus is the outsider in his high school freshman class. He's the brunt of jokes from his snooty classmates. He's the guy who never gets a date with anyone - much less with Melissa, the cheerleader who is the girl of his dreams.
Angus describes himself as ``a fat kid who's good at science.''
``Angus'' is the latest in a rash of movies about underdogs who must overcome. Angus is a close cousin to ``Rudy,'' and even ``Rocky,'' unlikely guys who come from behind to go the distance.
``Angus'' trots out every cliche of the genre: the snobbish golden boy quarterback whose group of ``in'' bullies torments Angus; the gorgeous teen dream girl, photographed in slow motion; the geek best friend; the showdown (this time, at the freshman dance).
In spite of all the usual moves, ``Angus'' wins us over with spunk. It may be a bit cornball, but ``Angus'' has its heart in the right place.
Charlie Talbert, a real-life junior at a Wisconsin high school, is a good deal less cloying than the usual Hollywood actor chosen for the resident fat guy. He approaches the part with serious intent. His hurt is visible - and therein lies the charm, and difference, for this likable little film.
There are factors, though, that mar the film. Why is Angus so unpopular even though he's a big help on the football team? You'd think that just getting on the team would give him come status (and it's clear that he has the weight to be a real asset to the jock effort). His scholastic gifts, too, seem a bit awesome for him to be such a loser. Why is Rick, the star quarterback, so abnormally obsessed with hurting Angus? More than a mere teen show-off, there seems to be something outright unbalanced about this character.
Kathy Bates, who is perfectly cast as Angus' tough mom, has the film's best speech when she points out that her son shows great bravery by ``going back to that school, day after day.'' Bates (Oscar winner for ``Misery'') is one of three Academy Award winners in the supporting cast.
Angus, it seems, has an eccentric, and resilient, family. Mom is a truck driver named Bruiser. Grandpa, at age 73, plans to marry a blonde 30 years his junior and encourages Angus to just be himself. George C. Scott, a native of Wise, Va., lends his usual cranky exterior to the part. Rita Moreno (``West Side Story'') has a funny bit as Angus' dance teacher.
The most regrettable cliche is the resident geek, Troy, a kid with big ears played with excessive gusto by Chris Owen. Would Angus so easily forgive this character after he is betrayed in the most uncaring way?
Of course, it all leads to the prom when Angus encounters the girl of his dreams (Ariana Richards from ``Jurassic Park'').
One can't help but think of ``Carrie'' - here's another poor, victimized misfit trying to retrieve some hope from the school dance.
Unlike ``Carrie,'' though, ``Angus'' has a gentle message of tolerance and understanding. Our heart goes out to him, even if it is manipulated in the most obvious ways. The Anguses of the world have a place. They even deserve a hit movie. MEMO: MOVIE REVIEW
Cast: Charlie Talbert, Kathy Bates, George C. Scott, Rita Moreno
Director: Patrick Read Johnson
Screenplay: Jill Gordon, based on a short story by Chris Crutcher
Music: David Russo
MPAA rating: PG-13 (some coarse language, but comparitively
Mal's rating: 2 1/2 stars
Locations: Greenbrier 13 in Chesapeake; Main Gate in Norfolk;
Pembroke, Lynnhaven 8 in Virginia Beach ILLUSTRATION: NEW LINE CINEMA photo
Chris Owen looks on as Chris Talbert sweeps Winter Ball queen Ariana
Richards off her feet in ``Angus.''