RACING WITH THE MOON
Review by Gordon Justesen
Sean Penn, Elizabeth McGovern, Nicolas Cage
Director: Richard Benjamin
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Mono, French Dolby Mono
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Features: See Review
Length: 108 Minutes
Release Date: November 30, 2004
At one point, Sean
Penn and Nicolas Cage were young actors on the rise. With the 1984 film Racing
With the Moon, they both ignite the screen in what could be considered a
sign of things to come regarding their acting careers.
Films such as this
don't get made much in today's age. The movie is a sweet-natured account of the
final days leading up to two lifelong friends shipping off to fight in World War
II. These last several days turn out to be the biggest turning point in these
young guys' lives. It may be more of a turning point than going off to war.
The story takes
place in a small California town in 1943. The hero of the story is Henry
"Hopper" Nash (Penn), a young rebel who has just volunteered to serve
his country by fighting in World War II. His lifelong friend, Nicky (Nicolas
Cage) has also volunteered. Teens their age have been volunteering left and
right. Hopper and Nicky see going off to war as a chance to get out of their
boring town and engage in something adventurous and meaningful with their lives.
encounters something most unexpected, a chance encounter with a woman he finds
most attractive. The girl, named Caddie (Elizabeth McGovern), is a mysterious
soul who Hopper spots on routine walks on the hillsides. He then spots her as a
ticket taker at the local theatre. He decides to make his first move by posing
as a bakery clerk when she goes in to order some pie. He then makes a fool of
himself in front of her at the school library, which then leads to an awkward
From that point on,
an unexpected romance blossoms. Caddie and Hopper become frequently inseparable,
though the day of going to war grows closer. As the crucial point in their lives
draws near, conflicts increase at an unexpected rate. In a desperate attempt to
save Nicky from something he doesn't want to happen, the two risk their necks in
a game of pool at a nearby bar against some rugged navy sailors.
Above all else, Racing
With the Moon is a first rate character study, and the characters are given
a real level of depth by the actors. Penn and Cage are outstanding in what is
easily an early career highlight. This movie perfectly serves as a sign of
things to come, as both actors have gone on to enjoy marvelous careers. Both
actors have recently also won Oscars, Cage for Leaving
Las Vegas and Penn for Mystic River.
With the Moon is a timely and
most effective love story, as well as an examination of a complex relationship
amongst the central characters.
BONUS TRIVIA: Look
closely, and you'll spot a very young Michael Madsen and Dana Carvey in separate
anamorphic handling of this now 20 year old pic is extremely satisfying,
especially when you take into account that they haven't had much luck in
transferring their 80s releases to the format. The image is very clear and
consistently so, give a minor soft spot or two. The scenery of the California
hillside setting looks particularly breathtaking.
The 5.1 mix does
what it can with this dialogue-driven piece. What can be said for this
presentation is that the delivery of dialogue is as sharp and clear as can be.
Some retro 40's music also makes for some nice sound, but that's about all this
presentation can allow in those terms.
This was quite a
surprise, since I thought Paramount was going to leave a good bit of their
catalog titles feature-less unless under a Special Edition label. The disc
happens to have a commentary track with director Richard Benjamin, as well as
three very in-depth featurettes, "Racing With the Moon"-The Story, The
People, "The Making of Racing With the Moon", and "The Story Goes