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Rob Reiner
John Cusack, Daphne Zuniga, Nicolette Sheridan, Viveca Landfors
Writing Credits:
Steven L. Bloom and Jonathan Roberts

When college student Walter Gibson gets set up for a date with an incredibly gorgeous blonde, he’s ready to go to the ends of the earth (or at least across the country) to capitalize on this "sure thing". Paired up with tightly-wound coed Alison Bradbury via the campus ride-share program, he heads west for Los Angeles. But as the obstacles begin to pile up, he and Alison begin to form an unexpected bond… and soon Gib must choose between the sure thing and the real thing.

Box Office:
$4.5 million.
Domestic Gross

Rated PG-13

Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English DTS-HD MA Mono
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 95 min.
Price: $24.97
Release Date: 3/24/2015

• Audio Commentary with Director Rob Reiner
• “The Road to The Sure Thing” Retrospective Featurette
• “Dressing The Sure Thing” Featurette
• “Casting The Sure Thing” Featurette
• “Dressing The Sure Thing” Featurette
• Trailer


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


The Sure Thing [Blu-Ray] (1985)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 22, 2015)

Back when I was much fatter than I am today, I believed I knew of one guaranteed way for me to shed the blubber. If a very attractive woman agreed to sleep with me if I took off X number of pounds, I’d have lost the weight in a heartbeat.

That didn’t happen and I eventually found a different form of motivation. However, this element of my past allows me to still relate to The Sure Thing, a 1985 comedy that deals with the extremes to which men will go to get some action.

At the start of Thing, we meet Walter “Gib” Gibson (John Cusack), a recent high school graduate who ponders his lack of success with the ladies. Although his buddy Lance (Anthony Edwards) promises things will be different in college, they aren’t; Gib finds no sexual success at his Ivy League university.

However, he does develop an interest in a buttoned-down classmate named Alison Bradbury (Daphne Zuniga), even though she’s his perfect opposite. Gib’s spontaneous and creative but undisciplined, while Alison dots every “I” and crosses every “T” but lacks any form of spark or zest for life.

When Gib’s sloppiness lands him a bad grade on an English paper, he implores Alison to tutor him, and she reluctantly agrees. Although she has a boyfriend in college on the west coast, Gib actually starts to get her to like him - until he makes a really cheesy move on her. This backfires and he seems to miss his shot.

Time passes and Gib gets an offer from Lance to visit him in California over winter break. He resists until Lance promises that if he comes to the west coast, he’ll get a date with a super babe (Nicollette Sheridan) who’s a “sure thing”.

Lickety-split, Gib signs up to share a ride out to California. However, he ends up with Alison, who also needs to lift so she can see her boyfriend. To put it mildly, the pair get on each others’ nerves. They also irritate their auto hosts, Gary Cooper (Tim Robbins) and Mary Ann Webster (Lisa Jane Persky), a chipper pair who can’t stand the bickering.

Eventually the kids become too much for Gary and Mary Ann, and they get tossed out of the car in the middle of nowhere. They fight some more as they attempt to regroup and make their way out to LA. Gib and Alison slowly bond as they endure many hardships on the road, and inevitably, they grow close. Will Gib go for “the sure thing” or will he follow his heart with Alison?

If you don’t know the answer, I don’t think you’ve ever actually seen a movie. I won’t call Thing predictable, but I also can’t say that it follows a path that includes any real surprises.

Not that I regard that as a bad thing. For his follow up to 1983’s This Is Spinal Tap - his directorial debut - Rob Reiner chose Thing. On the surface, Thing looked like it’d be just another cheesy teen sex romp. To be sure, a story about a guy who travels cross-country just to get laid didn’t present something one might think would come across as anything other than crass.

However, the film proves to be much better than that. Sure, it occasionally indulges in slightly crude moments, but these don’t abound, and they’re played in a way that makes them seem easily tolerable. These elements seem natural to the story and don’t come across as forced attempts to inject some of the expected sauciness into the flick.

Really, Thing exists largely as a teen version of 1934’s It Happened One Night. The movie focuses on the road trip that may or may not bring together the young couple, and it delights in the little touches along the way.

Thing often seems at its best when we find small quirky moments. From the showtune-singing drivers to the barflies Gib meets, Thing tosses in many well-developed throwaway pieces that help it fly.

None of that would matter without the chemistry between the leads, and Zuniga and Cusack definitely click in their roles. Zuniga seems especially good as the uptight Alison. She makes the character sufficiently stuffy but makes sure we buy her as a real human being and not just a stereotype. She also allows Alison to develop naturally; as she comes out of her shell, she does so in a believable manner. Zuniga provides a nice performance that really improves the movie.

Cusack also seems pretty good as Gib, and we can see the easy-going almost-hip-but-still-boy-next-door tone that would serve him well over the years. However, I have to complain a little because at times, Cusack seems to reach for talents he doesn’t have. Parts of the movie force him to engage in broad shtick, such as when Gib begs Alison for tutoring at the swimming pool. It feels like someone told Cusack that he should imitate Bill Murray, and it doesn’t work. These occasional moments stand out in a negative way and seem out of place.

My other minor complaint stems from the casting of Sheridan, mostly because she doesn’t stand as much of a contrast to Zuniga. For Gib to have to face a real choice, “the Sure Thing” should be substantially hotter than Alison. It’s okay for Alison to seem attractive, but the Sure Thing should still blow her away in the looks department.

Frankly, I always thought Sheridan looked kind of odd, at least with the hair and makeup styles on display here. Physically, I think Zuniga’s more attractive, and this makes it seem like less of a leap when Gib has to confront his options.

But that’s mostly nitpicking, for The Sure Thing gets most of its elements right. A blurb on the old DVD’s cover found a critic who nominated it as “the greatest film ever made”, and I think he must have been on the pipe; I’m not sure Thing should make a list of the thousand best flicks, much less be at the top. Nonetheless, it offers a sweet and endearing romantic comedy that manages to offer something different from the era’s usual cheesy teen flicks.

Acting footnote: in the span of just one year, Anthony Edwards went from a role as a total geek in Revenge of the Nerds to his part as wild party boy Lance here. Then a year later he’d be a married fighter pilot in Top Gun. Now that’s range!

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture C+ / Audio B- / Bonus B-

The Sure Thing appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This was a somewhat up and down presentation.

Sharpness mostly looked positive. Wide shots could appear soft throughout the movie, and other parts of the film also occasionally came across as somewhat ill defined. Still, most of the movie appeared fairly accurate and distinct.

I noticed no issues connected to jagged edges or moiré effects, and edge haloes remained absent. However, print flaws were a distraction, especially during the ugly opening credits. Matters improved from there, but the movie still came with a mix of occasional specks and marks.

Many Eighties movies display iffy colors, and Thing demonstrated some of the usual moderate roughness I associate with the era. However, the hues mostly came across as acceptably dynamic and tight; they could look a bit drab, but they usually were fine.

Black levels also seemed slightly tame but they mostly looked dense and solid, while low-light situations demonstrated good definition and detail. A good clean-up would’ve helped this image, but as it stood, it earned a “C+”.

Adapted from the movie’s original monaural soundtrack – which also appears on the disc – the DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix of The Sure Thing opened up the audio slightly. However, the soundfield remained essentially monaural much of the time.

Some music spread decently to the sides, and occasional examples of effects also popped up in those speakers. At times, vehicles moved from side to side, and a few other sequences like a rainstorm made acceptable use of the soundfield.

Nonetheless, the elements stayed close to the center the vast majority of the time, and surround usage appeared inconsequential most of the time. A few shots used the rear speakers to fair effect, but they popped up infrequently.

Audio quality was generally fine, though the elements showed their age. Speech could be a little dull, but the lines always remained intelligible and reasonably natural.

Music lacked great range but was reasonably clear and distinctive. Effects seemed accurate and clean, though they didn’t display a lot of dimensionality. Overall, the soundtrack of The Sure Thing was perfectly solid for this sort of film, but it never became anything more than that.

How does the Blu-ray compare to the the 2003 Special Edition DVD? Audio was similar; the lossless track boasted a bit more range, but given the limitations of the source, there wasn’t much room for growth.

Visuals also lacked great improvements, as the nature of the original photography meant limitations came to the fore, and the print flaws didn’t help. That said, the Blu-ray delivered stronger colors and improved delineation, so this became a decent step up in quality, even if some clean-up would’ve made it better.

The Blu-ray repeats a lot of the extras from the 2003 DVD, and we open with an audio commentary from director Rob Reiner, who gives us a running, screen-specific piece. The veteran of many tracks, Reiner usually doesn’t do well with the format. Though better than the average Reiner commentary, his discussion of The Sure Thing remains flawed.

Actually, the chat starts well, as Reiner tells us of his discomfort during the casting of “the sure thing” herself, and Reiner later occasionally gives us good notes about the way the actors worked, with a particular emphasis on Cusack’s improvisational style. He also relates thematic connections among many of his movies.

Unfortunately, these highlights appear infrequently. Much of the movie passes without any information from the director, and when he does speak, he often just tells us the names of actors, praises people and film elements, or relates the on-screen action. To be sure, this commentary seems better than Reiner’s worst offenders, but he still comes across as a generally dull and uninformative commentary participant.

Next we get a “retrospective featurette” called The Road to The Sure Thing. The 26-minute, 16-second program offers info from Reiner, actors John Cusack, Daphne Zuniga, and Nicollette Sheridan, writers Steven L. Bloom and Jonathan Roberts, producer Roger Birnbaum, former Embassy Pictures executive Lindsay Doran, casting director Jane Jenkins, production designer Lilly Kilvert and casting director Janet Hishenson.

As with Reiner’s commentary, “Road” starts strong but peters out quickly. At the beginning, we learn of the script’s genesis and difficult path to the screen. Once the project gets the green light, however, the featurette becomes less interesting. The remainder covers how Reiner and the main actors joined the project, and we also get some notes about the flick’s legacy.

Many of the notes about Reiner and the director already appear in his commentary, and much of the rest consists of little more than praise for Reiner. We find a lot of remarks about his talent and special qualities. Good for him, but this makes “Road” only moderately and sporadically useful.

Next we get another featurette entitled Dressing The Sure Thing. It runs eight minutes, 48 seconds and concentrates on costume designer Durinda Wood and her work. We see short clips from the movie and get notes on what she wanted to do with the characters’ clothes. Since Thing took place in a contemporary setting, one might not think it required a lot of effort to dress people, so it seems fascinating to hear the specifics of her attempts. “Dressing” provides a tight and informative program.

Casting The Sure Thing takes seven minutes, 18 seconds to examine the obvious topic. We hear from casting directors Jenkins and Hishenson as they discuss how they do their job in a general way and go into more specifics about Thing. They mostly skip the obvious notes about the leads, which is good since we’ve already heard those remarks elsewhere. “Casting” covers its subject in an efficient manner and gives us some interesting information.

For the final featurette, Reading The Sure Thing runs five minutes as writer Bloom reads his original story treatment. We see movie segments that generally correspond to Bloom’s writing. This presentation seems a little odd, as I’m not sure why we didn’t get the material in stillframe form, but it’s still cool to hear the tale in its earliest version, especially since it has only a smidgen in common with the final product.

The disc finishes with the film’s trailer. From the old DVD, the Blu-ray loses a good trivia track as well as some Easter eggs. It’s a shame these don’t port over to the Blu-ray.

In an age that was filled with cheap and crude sex comedies, The Sure Thing offered a teen flick that dared to treat matters with a little class and maturity. That’s probably why so many folks still view it fondly 30 years after the fact and also why it remains amusing and likable despite a wide selection of dated fashions and songs. The Blu-ray offers erratic picture and audio along with a decent array of supplements. This doesn’t become a great release, but it’s an acceptable version of an enjoyable film.

To rate this film, visit the DVD review of THE SURE THING

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main