Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
Released on March 16, 1979
Directed by John Hancock
Written by Ned Wynn
Cast: Glynnis O’Connor, Dennis Christopher, Seymour Cassel, Dorothy Tristan, John Calvin, Tanya Roberts, James Van Patten, Todd Susman, Stacy Nelkin, Marshall Efron, Alice Playten, John Fain, Shannon Terhune, Ned Wynn
Having lived in San Diego for quite some time, and having spent many a day during my junior and high school years on the sandy shores of Torrey Pines and Del Mar, I’ve always held an affection for the surf-and-sand beach movies of my teenage past, where films like Malibu Beach and The Beach Girls have allowed me the opportunity to travel back to that carefree era, if only for a short while. But as hard as it tried, the late-’70s American International release California Dreaming could not muster in me that same level of appreciation.
Dennis Christopher, who played such a likeable and engaging character in the bicycling drama Breaking Away, here plays a bothersome dink name T.T., who arrives from Chicago to a tiny beachfront town in Southern California, hoping to either get a tan, score some beach bunnies, or irritate the locals. From the start, it’s obvious he’ll easily succeed with that third option, while the other two remain severely questionable. Soon, however, he meets the amiable Duke, played by Seymour Cassel, who runs a beachfront bar and tries to coach T.T. on the finer points of beach life.
Like I mentioned, I watched this for the 1970s beach atmosphere, but mostly I watched this for Glynnis O’Connor, playing Duke’s daughter Corky, an actress I’ve had a crush on for decades; if you’ve ever seen the made-for-television movie The Boy in the Plastic Bubble, like I did when I was twelve, then you’ll know why. Quite the cutie at the time, and now four years later she’s become quite the sun-blonde hottie, spending the entirety of her screen time decked out in either a white bikini or skimpy beachwear, and displaying a warmly-tanned form I just wanted to melt into.
The problem with all of this was, I don’t think the filmmakers quite new what type of movie they wanted to make: a romance drama, a romance comedy, or a typical teen sex comedy of the era. To me, this should have been nothing but a fun romantic drama, minus all of the unnecessary scenes involving humor, sex, and Christopher; though I didn’t mind Glynnis’ topless moments, someone definitely needed to teach that idiot T.T. how to interact with a girl in bed, or in general. It was tough at times—too many times, actually—having to watch Christopher, who was irritating beyond belief, and whose character’s story arc rarely felt believable, and never once possible.
And the rest of the movie? A good taste of the California surf community and culture, and a nice evening shot of the Fremont Theatre in San Luis Obispo, but everything beyond that was dealt a deadly blow by quite a few ugly camera set-ups by director John Hancock, some strange story ideas that played out rather clumsily, and the annoying presence of Christopher, whose character seemed to have wandered in from another film, and overall was about as socially inept as any one person could be. If you must watch this, do so for Glynnis, and tolerate your way through the rest. (5/10)