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  Motorama Take A Letter
Year: 1991
Director: Barry Shils
Stars: Jordan Christopher Michael, John Diehl, Robert Picardo, Susan Tyrrell, John Laughlin, Jack Nance, Garrett Morris, Michael J. Pollard, Flea, Sandy Baron, Mary Woronov, Vince Edwards, Drew Barrymore, Daniel Quinn, Meat Loaf, Dick Miller, Charles Tyner
Genre: Comedy, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Ten-year-old Gus (Jordan Christopher Michael) does not have a happy home life, so what he needs is something to believe in and a reason to escape. With this at the forefront of his thoughts, he fashions a device for his foot, smashes his piggy bank and takes the cash to be converted into notes. Armed with this, he climbs into his car and heads out on the highway, the device for his foot enabling him to reach the pedals. What Gus has in mind is to win at a competition, a game of chance, that involves receiving special cards from participating gas stations: it's called Motorama.

This film has been catching viewers unawares for a while now, as it's so bizarre that it's one of those movies where it's difficult to judge where it is heading, never mind the purpose or point of it all. It was scripted by Joseph Minion, better known for writing Martin Scorsese's After Hours and the almost as strange "Nicolas Cage eats a cockroach" effort Vampire's Kiss, but was weirder than either of them, although recognisably the same hand was behind them all. It's a bit like having a rambling conversation with someone who you cannot tell if they're joking or not as the talk grows odder.

Essentially, Motorama is a road movie and little Gus is the unlikely hard-bitten driver leading us through it. He stops at a variety of gas stations, diners and rest stops along his journey, meeting an array of characters who more often than not are either eccentric or completely insane. First up is a diner where Susan Tyrrell in a huge blonde wig is serving, and the patrons wonder what precisely a kid like Gus is doing driving a fancy car through the middle of nowhere - he makes excuses that he sold his stamp collection to buy the car, when in fact he stole it.

Although he only performs one act of cruelty, Gus either suffers for that or the selfishness his quest brings out in him. The cruel act is to untie the kite of one attendant, Phil (John Diehl), leaving him to chase it along the highway until he is knocked over and seriously injured by a huge truck. But that selfishness speaks of the singlemindedness that overtakes an individual when all they are pursuing is one thing to the exclusion of everything else, in this case those cards, each of which features a letter to spell out the word "Motorama". Some letters are more elusive than others, however.

Incidental pleasures include the cult-ish personalities Gus meets along the way, such as Jack Nance as a squirrel-catching motel owner, Michael J. Pollard and Saturday Night Live's Garrett Morris as attendants, Sandy Baron and Mary Woronov as a couple who are responsible for blinding Gus in one eye, Drew Barrymore in a dream sequence and Dick Miller as a father who loses a bet with Gus for $100 and ends up abandoning his small children to pay for it. Don't think our hero doesn't suffer for his goal, as he grows older while still stayng the same age, with grey hair and stubble and an armful of painful tattoos thanks to Meat Loaf. The message would appear to be that you're better off finding peace rather than pursuing some prize you'll never attain, but this is so off the wall it's hard to fathom what they were getting at. Music by Andy Summers.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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