"Hey, they call you 'The Rodent', or something like that, do
cookieman108 | Inside the jar... | 12/16/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The 1970s saw a wave of nostalgia directed primarily towards the late 1950s/early 1960s, precipitated by George Lucas' cinematic staple American Graffiti (1973), which was followed up by a not so great sequel titled More American Graffiti (1979). Following suit we saw the popular television series "Happy Days" (1974), and other films like Grease (1978), Eskimo Limon (1978) aka Lemon Popsicle, The Hollywood Knights (1980), along this little known (and lesser) feature titled Hometown USA (1979), directed by Max Baer Jr., whom many probably know as that lovable hillbilly lunk-headed character Jetho Bodine (sometimes Jethrene Bodine), from the early 1960s television series "The Beverly Hillbillies". Written by actor Jesse Vint (Macon County Line, Bug), the film features Gary Springer (Jaws 2), David Wilson (Eddie and the Cruisers), and Brian Kerwin (King Kong Lives). Also appearing is Pat Delaney (Zontar the Thing from Venus), Cindy Fisher (The Swiss Family Robinson), Sally Kirkland (Big Bad Mama), and Julie Parsons (Sweater Girls).
Meet Rodney C. Duckworth (Springer), high school student and all around schlub, known to his peers as `The Rodent'...having seen the film in its entirety, I'd say it was appropriate. Anyway, Rodney, whose got a thing for Marilyn Monroe (who didn't back then?), in a desperate attempt to earn some cool points, steals his sister's boyfriend's car, a brand new red Chevy convertible, cruises the strip, eventually meets up with T. J. Swackhammer (Kerwin)...that's one hellava moniker...who's one of the cool dudes about town, fashioning himself after James Dean and driving a souped up deuce coup. The boys run afoul of an old man in a heap, and T.J. gives Rodney the name `Rod Heartbender', so that he may at least appear cool, even if he isn't, while the two hang out. There are hi-jinks aplenty (most involving the never ending quest to get some tail), and eventually the pair hooks up with another `cool' dude named Recil Calhoun (Wilson), a full-on, muscle-headed greaser character much like of Fonzie from Happy Days, only a lot less likable. The trio engages in a scheme, thought up by T.J., involving T.J. picking up some jailbait, and doing the horizontal boogie with her in the front seat while Rod and Recil hide in the backseat under a blanket. At the appropriate time, Recil is supposed to pop up with a camera and snap a photo of the girl in a compromising position, and then the boys would use said photo to blackmail her into having intimate relations with Recil and Rod...sound disgusting? It is...anyway, some more stuff happens, Rodney earns some coolness by association (and subsequently we see the two cool dudes aren't really as cool as they're made out to be), all culminating in Rodney getting together with a buxom blonde named Marilyn often seen driving about in a blue convertible...if this last aspect sounds a lot like Richard Dreyfuss' character chasing after the mysterious blonde, played by Suzanne Sommers, in the film American Graffiti, it should because it was lifted right from that film, along with a few other things.
This wasn't really a bad film, but the thing is, by the time the movie came out, the premise had already been done, and a whole lot better, in other films. The main problem I had with this movie was the fact there weren't any likable characters. All the guys were pretty skeezy, while all the women were portrayed as either easy or gullible, or both...American Graffiti was funny, realistic and poignant, and Hollywood Knights was sleazy but really funny, both having characters the audience could identify with or want to hang out with...Hometown USA is just mainly sleazy, and kinda funny, but there's no one in this film I could identify with, or want to know. The characters suffered in their two-dimensional qualities, never developing any real chemistry between each other, and never becoming more than they were, which was pretty much just an annoying bunch of slimeballs. There's not really a plot in the film, as the story relates events that occur over the period of a night. The direction is actually very solid, and the scripting decent, but the actual characters are probably what hurt this film the most, specifically their aforementioned shallowness. Springer was probably the worst for me, in the role of Rodney, as he was just such a pud. Usually there comes a point in the film where this type of character rises above his superficial inadequacies to become more than he is, but that never really happens here, despite the attempts to do so...he's a real tool from beginning to end, one which I never developed any fondness for what so ever. Remember the character of Terry 'The Toad' Fields, played by Charles Martin Smith, from the film American Graffiti? He was such a knob in the beginning, but as the movie progressed, so did his character, to the point where he was actually all right...anyway, the film did have some strong points, like all the cool cars from the period, many sporting flame jobs. Also, the movie featured a ton of music from the period, from such artists as Jerry Lee Lewis, The Chiffons, Richie Valens, Dion and the Belmonts, Little Richard, Carl Perkins, and The Drifters, among others. My only gripe about the music was, while there was a large amount of it, not a lot seemed to be thoughtfully chosen (some of it was) but rather just dumped into the film. Quality tunes, for sure, but not necessarily a good fit given the setting within the story...but this was a relatively minor issue, tied more to my own aesthetic preferences. In case you're wondering, the film does includes a nekkid topless scene, along with a handful of profanities, earning its R rating, so this may not be one to watch with the kiddies, unless you're one of those `progressive' parents.
The picture, presented in both full frame, formatted to fit 4X3 TVs and non-anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1), looks a little soft, but very clean, and the Dolby Digital mono comes through relatively well, although I thought Anchor Bay Entertainment could have punched it up a bit, as the volume level seemed a little on the low side. Extras include a theatrical trailer, a biography of Max Baer Jr., along with a 5X7 reproduction of original poster art on an insert card, the flipside featuring the chapter stops.
If I learned anything from this film it's that `the angle of the dangle times the heat of the meat equals the mass of the a$$'...I'm not sure what that means, but it sounds kinda cool...