Book of Love

What the world needs now is a lot of things, but I suspect that one of them is not another movie about growing up in the Fifties. The motivation for the film's central character, Jack Twiller (ably played by Chris Young), is getting a date for the prom and, of course, getting laid. Jack's dream girl is Lily (Josie Bissett), a blond tease attached to the beefy school thug Angelo Gabooch (Beau Dremann). So Jack spends time goofing off with his buddies Crutch (Keith Coogan) and Floyd (John Cameron Mitchell). The boys soup up a jalopy, worship James Dean movies, dance to pop tunes of the era, measure their dicks with a ruler, get drunk, wreck their parents' houses and, well, you name the cliché — it's here.

William Kotzwinkle, author of the acclaimed novelization of "E.T.," adapted this script from his book "Jack in the Box." But the film's virtues are, at best, modest. For Kotzwinkle and Robert Shaye — the New Line studio chief who is making a sincere but inauspicious debut as a director — the Fifties strike a personal chord. Their nostalgia is underlined by a framing device showing the middle-aged Jack (Michael McKean) reflecting on his time of innocence. Jack never did get to go all the way with Lily back in 1956, but he did find an unlikely friend in tough-girl Gina (a very fine Tricia Leigh Fisher). The model for this kind of memory piece remains Barry Levinson's "Diner" (1982), which shook Fifties stereotypes for signs of life and present-day relevance. It's too bad Kotzwinkle and Shave prefer to see the past as rosy instead of real. "Book of Love" leaves you feeling buried in bland.

From The Archives Issue 176: December 19, 1974