Racing with the Moon is a sweet, likable film that doesn’t contain the usual commercial elements normally expected these days in youth pics. Working in a more straightforward, serious mode, Richard Benjamin confirms the directorial promise he dipslayed in My Favorite Year, and Sean Penn and Elizabeth McGovern are good as the romantic leads.
Time frame is Christmas of 1942, and Penn and his rowdy buddy Nicolas Cage have just a few weeks left until they join the Marines. Penn becomes dazzled by a new face (McGovern) in the California coastal town, whom he takes to be a rich girl since she lives up in the ‘Gatsby’ mansion. While Cage, a wrong-side-of-the-tracks type, gets his g.f. pregnant, and after a disastrous, but wonderfully staged, attempt to hustle some sailors at pool, Penn forces himself to enlist McGovern’s help in raising $150 for an abortion for his friend’s gal.
First-time scenarist Steven Kloves has created two nice leading characters, nicely essayed by Penn and McGovern.
Benjamin shows a consistently generous attitude toward his characters and an inclination to emphasize their most exemplary traits.