August 23rd, 2009

DINER (1982) ***

A lot of talented people got their start in this meandering but mostly funny flick from director Barry Levinson.  The film stars Steve (Police Academy) Guttenberg, Daniel (Home Alone) Stern, Mickey (Homeboy) Rourke, Kevin (Friday the 13th) Bacon, Tim (Storm of the Century) Daly, and Paul (Mad About You) Reiser as a bunch of friends who like to eat at a diner in Baltimore in the 50’s.  They all have their various quirks.  Guttenberg won’t marry his fiancée until she passes a Colts football quiz.  Stern collects records and wigs out whenever his wife messes up his alphabetized collection.  Rourke has a big gambling debt.  Bacon gets drunk a lot, etc.  That’s basically the whole movie.

 

Since Levinson has directed nothing but stinkers for the past 12 years or so, it’s nice to know there was a time when he could actually make a decent movie.  I’ll admit that Diner kinda tested my patience for the first half hour or so but once the movie found its rhythm and the laughs became more frequent, I quite enjoyed it.  While some of the more serious aspects of the flick don’t exactly work (Rourke’s gratuitous gambling problem subplot sticks out like a sore thumb), some of the stuff is flat out hilarious (the pecker in the popcorn scene is priceless). 

 

Of the cast, Rourke comes off the best, mostly because he gets the most screen time.  Being accustomed to his increasingly bizarre appearance, it’s funny to look back at his early movies when he was so low key and handsome.  Bacon is pretty good as the drunk of the group and Guttenberg gives a solid performance too.  Reiser and Daly kinda get the short end of the stick and aren’t given a lot to do but they’re fine just the same.

 

Levinson unsuccessfully tried to get a Diner TV show (which would have starred Michael Madsen and James Spader!) off the ground the next year.