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Dancer, Texas pop.81
Starring Breckin Meyer, Ethan Embry, Peter Facinelli and Eddie Mills
Written and Directed by Tim McCanlies
Website: www.sony.com

IN SHORT: A sign of great things to come.

Dancer, Texas is a town so small that you can't find it in the eight square inches it's home county takes up on the Rand McNally map. It's a town where almost every adult is a member of the Slow Talkers Of America club. Dancer manages to keep the Oasis gas station open, despite the fact that only one car a day, it seems, passes on the highway that runs through the town. Said highway is the favorite place to hang out, and to watch the sunset, for pals Keller (Breckin Meyer), Squirrel (Ethan Embry), Tyrell Lee (Peter Facinelli) and John (Eddie Mills). These four young men, eighty percent of the graduating class of the local high school, have made a solemn vow to board the first bus to leave Dancer after graduation and move to Los Angeles.

As is said many times in the movie, "a lot can happen in two days".

Yeah, I know what you're thinking ('cuz Cranky thought it too): four guys in a small town are automatically the stud, the nerd, the normalguy and the other. Only to a very minor extent, which is exploited brilliantly by the script. The great surprise is that Dancer Texas is not cut out of the Porky's (whatever) mold. It is a solid story both written and directed by Tim McCanlies, in which characters do develop right in front of your eyes. Remember the name, McCanlies. Everything which Cranky was taught in film school (which he obviously ignored) about what makes a good film is here. Had there been a big name on the cast list, this flick would have been held back for the Oscar race. In the middle of the summer, it can only hope for a long run in a small theater, and a lot of ticket buyers with big mouths. One of them is me.

The script delivers solid reasons for every action that each character makes. McCanlies builds a community right in front of your eyes -- from the domineering mother (thirtysomething's Patricia Wettig) to the drunkard father; the crazy grandfather to the perfect girl next door (Growing Pains' all grown up Ashley Johnson) and the local bookie who's laying odds on how many of the boys will actually board the bus and leave town. The direction is to the point. Dancer, Texas runs a sit-able 90 minutes and is so packed with plot stuff that you'll miss something important if you get up for a quick run to the little person's room. Cranky saw this one in a private screening and at least two other critics missed major character changes. So, I'm warning you -- blow tubes before the flick starts.

Which leaves the acting. With the exceptions of the television actors (Wettig, Johnson and Eddie Jones -- you'll recognize the face), all the young faces are fairly unknown. They do a good job. Like Good Will Hunting, Dancer, Texas is a "small" story that delivers a big punch. Cranky felt the same feelings he did after watching the former. The only thing missing from Dancer, Texas is a big love story. Here, the emphasis is on male bonding and friendship and the meaning of a "solemn vow". It's not a bad substitute. If you liked Good Will Hunting, you'll like Dancer, Texas.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price for Dancer, Texas pop. 81, he would have paid . . .

$6.50

In my first draft, the rating was a serviceable $5. This sucker just grows on you. I was just surprisingly pleased when Dancer, Texas finished unspooling a couple of hours ago. As I write this, I find myself pleasantly enthusiastic.

I could be raving in the morning, when I file this review. Scares the hell out of me . . .


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The Cranky Critic® is a Registered Trademark of, and his website is Copyright © 1995  -  2015   by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.