Writer-director Mike Binder’s drama is set in 1975 Detroit, where three high school buddies hang out, get drunk and generally avoid thinking about the future three years after h.s. graduation. Mort (Josh Charles), clearly intended as Binder’s alter ego, is a budding writer and would-be comic whose chief ambition is to write sitcom scripts.
In that, he’s muchless aimless than Tim (Jason Gedrick), a hothead whose chief hobby is fighting, and Danny (Stephen Baldwin), the taciturn son of a former h.s. coach.
The first hour or so plays like a retread of “Breaking Away” as three leads work at menial jobs, carouse with equally aimless buddies and consider themselves superior to former classmates who attend college.
Most of the episodic misadventures are played for laughs, including a sequence in which Mort, his mother (Rita Taggart) and Uncle Alby (Jeffrey Tambor) have a famous New York Times writer (Hy Anzell) over for dinner.
Mort listens in awe as the writer talks about what it means to be a true wordsmith. Then the writer drops dead from a heart attack.
Uncle Alby thinks it’s all because of something Mort said. “This man survived the death camps of Nazi Germany!” the uncle cries. “Only to succumb during an evening with you!”
It takes a colossal amount of nerve to bring up the Holocaust for a cheap laugh. But, then again, Binder is quite shameless. His Mort is more sensitive and intelligent than everyone else on-screen, making for an unabashedly celebratory cinematic self-portrait.
Final third of pic has three leads heading across the Ambassador Bridge to Canada, where they think they’re going to pick up some hash from a hippie-scum supplier (Richard Edson) for a dealer back home.
Things turn sour when the guys find they’re really expected to smuggle heroin in their car back to Detroit.
This triggers a three-part crisis of conscience that provides the pic’s only real suspense.
Performances are as good as they can be, given the circumstances. Baldwin in particular registers strong screen presence. Other tech credits are good.