FOOLIN’ AROUND

(USA, 1980, Richard T. Heffron)

FOOLIN' AROUND

Made in the wake of his Oscar nominated performance in THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY, FOOLIN’ AROUND is an interesting curiosity: a film with Gary Busey in the lead. The film’s box office failure may serve to explain why Busey was soon relegated back to supporting parts (the film was released the same year he starred as a psychotic clown opposite Jodie Foster and the Band’s Robbie Robertson in the even more curious CARNY). The man best known for his star turn as Buddy Holly, his defiance of motorcycle helmet laws, and for being a general lunatic (who once snorted cocaine off of his dog) stars as a hard-working rural Okie named Wes. Wes heads to college up north and promptly falls for the beautiful heiress on campus (Annette O’Toole) who, predictably, is already engaged to be married to some rich asshole.

While the premise is hackneyed, the execution is strictly by-the-books. The film’s charm rests solely on Busey’s performance. His idiosyncratic quirkiness and easygoing goofiness is so ideally suited to play the lead in a romantic comedy that it’s a shame this is the only one he made. FOOLIN’ AROUND never takes itself too seriously, but its broad physical comedy and sitcom-style antics is more slapstick than screwball (lots of pratfalls, mishaps and a few too many getting-hit-in-the-balls jokes). A suitably ridiculous finale (involving a wiener mobile chase and a hanglider) plays like the THE GRADUATE on LSD. Seals and Crofts provide the yacht rock soundtrack, and a young William H. Macy, in one of his first film appearances, pops up as a book salesman.

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