1991 - PG-13 - 83 Mins.
|Director: Bryan Gordon
|Producer: John Hughes and Hunt Lowry
|Written By: John Hughes
|Starring: Frank Whaley, Jennifer Connelly, Dermot Mulroney, Kieran Mulroney and John M. Jackson
|Review by: Bill King
At some point at the end of the '80s, possibly beginning with "Uncle Buck," John Hughes began a devastating slide into mediocrity. Maybe by then he had spread himself too thin. He was a prolific screenwriter during that decade, often directing the stories that came straight from his heart while allowing others to direct scripts that were less personal. Even though in the '90s he wrote some good movies, like "Home Alone" and "Curly Sue," he nonetheless embarked on a mysterious foray into kiddie fare, and the results included "Dennis the Menace" and "Flubber."
Your hair isn't the only thing that's stiff.
The John Hughes of old was funnier, more observant. His later films indicate a loss of interest in screenwriting, and that's why they look so tired and sloppy (the sheer awfulness of "Baby's Day Out" is overwhelming). "Career Opportunities" contains a hint of vintage Hughes, but the movie runs out of inspiration at the moment when it needs it the most. This movie looks like a forgotten project that was filmed because someone finally got around to it.
Frank Whaley stars as Jim Dodge, a slacker who has trouble maintaining employment. He likes to tell tall tales of his exploits, like being a member of the FBI, when in reality he hasn't done anything except get fired from low-paying jobs. His father has had enough. He gives Jim one last chance, so he arranges an interview at the local Target department store in order to get his son hired as the new night janitor. It works out, and soon Jim finds himself working the graveyard shift all by himself.
Jim takes advantage of all the free time. When he's not cleaning, he's trying on clothes, playing with the skates, eating the food and dancing in the aisles. Sometime during the night, he meets Josie McClellan (Jennifer Connelly), the town's rich girl. She fell asleep in the store, but she wasn't there shopping; she was shoplifting so that she could get caught and embarrass her overbearing father (Noble Willingham).
The two are polar opposites. Jim likes to live at home, and he's generally happy with life, but he has no dreams other than his make-believe adventures. Josie would give anything to run away, but she likes the security of his wealthy father. They're both stuck in a bind, and they use that commonality to develop a friendship that becomes something deeper as the night progresses. They open up to each other and reveal their weaknesses. Jim tells Josie that he was picked on a lot in high school. It was a miserable time for him, but Josie calls those days the highlight of her life. She makes that statement with a sad look on her face, because her life after high school has seen nothing but heartache.
I liked how the film progressed thus far. John Hughes wrote some excellent dialogue between Jim and Josie. Jim may be a goofy adult, and Josie may be a lonely rich girl, but they have some interesting things to say to each other. There are a few lengthy dialogue scenes that remind us of "The Breakfast Club." Unfortunately, Hughes didn't know where to go with this. As a result, he wrote in a ridiculous subplot about two bumbling thieves (played by Dermot and Kieran Mulroney) who break into the Target store and threaten the two lovebirds at gunpoint.
"Career Opportunities" started out as a revealing tale of two mismatched kids who find each other and discuss their deepest secrets. The movie then becomes a farcical escapade in which Jim and Josie try to outsmart the thieves, thereby abandoning the chemistry that had developed between them. This fact gives "Career Opportunities" an awkward feel. Hughes managed to scrape together a few good ideas, but not enough to sustain a whole movie.