Walter Gibson (John Cusack) hasn't had much luck with the ladies, but he's only just leaving school for college in New England so he feels he has plenty of time to play the field. His friend Lance (Anthony Edwards) is off to California to study, and tells him that Gib is mad to want to go up North when the girls in the South will be ready, willing and available, but Gib feels he'll at least get a decent education where he's going. What he didn't reckon on was that neither is he an adept student, nor does he manage to find any of the fairer sex who are interested in him, so how about he takes control of his life?
By that he thinks he can win over one of the snootier girls on campus, Alison Bradbury (Daphne Zuniga), who has caught his attention even though she barely gives him the time of day. Then Lance comes up with a solution to Gib's sexual frustration: a sure thing, that is a girl who will definitely sleep with him if he can get down to California over the winter break, and after the term he has had our hero was only to pleased to seize this opportunity. Which brought us to the main body of the story, where he has to reach his destination, but unexpectedly is accompanied by Alison, developing what most would regard, or did at the time it was released, as a teen sex comedy version of It Happened One Night.
Approached like that, this was perhaps on paper a strange choice for director Rob Reiner who was then riding high with the success of This is Spinal Tap, except it was and it wasn't a teen sex comedy as the script cunningly married aspects of that and more traditional romance and relationships drama to fashion what started out as a slobs vs. snobs college laugh 'em up, then brought the two sides of that divide together for an actually quite sweet union. This was then seventeen-year-old Cusack's first big role and he seized his chances with both hands, rendering what could have been any old generic horny teen with unexpected depths which he only begins to wake up to himself as the story progresses.
Zuniga found more success on television, which was a shame as she proved here she could carry a movie, or at least co-carry a movie, in an equally unpromising role, yet get to those latter stages when Gib and Alison are having mixed feelings about what they want out of life and you could see they had both built on a script which offered them opportunities to go beyond the Screwballs and Porky's of this world. Not that this wasn't fun, as while predictable was its middle name - you could see that ending from a mile off - the journey was the vital thing and as this was a road movie that made it all the more important the sights and sounds we encountered along the way were worth looking at and listening to. From the moment the odd couple find themselves reluctantly sharing a car, that's the case.
Alison wants to go to California to meet her fiancée Jason (Boyd Gaines) who is every bit the square she is, but she rankles at Gib's accusation that spontaneity is not part of her personality and stages a topless stunt which gets them thrown out of the showtunes-singing couple's car they were travelling in (said couple played with amusing and vacuous brightness by Lisa Jane Persky and Cusack's friend Tim Robbins). Thereafter they have to hitch, which obviously throws up its own issues from Gib saving Alison from a sleazy driver to Alison offering him money to buy a bus ticket out of the reluctant kindness of her heart. But just as she would never have got to like him if she hadn't been forced to spend so much time with him, we too understand how good they are together, not least because the female half has been taught how to drink a can of beer in a novel way, and the male half has second thoughts about empty, meaningless sex when he can have true love. Isn't that nice? *Burp* Music by Tom Scott.