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Kevin Reynolds
Kevin Costner, Judd Nelson, Sam Robards
Writing Credits:
Kevin Reynolds

Five college buddies take a post-graduation road trip.

Rated PG.

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

Runtime: 91 min.
Price: $21.99
Release Date: 4/12/2022

• Trailer


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Fandango [Blu-Ray] (1985)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 11, 2022)

During the initial part of his career, Kevin Costner earned most of his notoriety for a film in which he didn’t appear. Famously, Costner played the deceased classmate mourned in 1983’s The Big Chill, but the flashbacks in which he acted wound up on the cutting room floor.

While Costner wouldn’t achieve real stardom for a few more years, 1985 turned into his “coming out party”, as he appeared in three flicks that year. Released in January of that year, Fandango became the first of this trio.

Set in 1971, we meet five Texas college buddies who call themselves “The Groovers”. With their schooldays at an end, two of them – Gardner Barnes (Costner) and Kenneth Waggener (Sam Robards) – wind up drafted into the military, while fellow Groover Phil Hicks (Judd Nelson) will soon enter Officer Training Camp.

As potential trips to fight in Vietnam lurk, Gardner decides the Groovers need to embark on one last “fandango”, a wild journey to sow oats. This leads them on a trek across Texas, with plenty of raucous antics along the way.

Fandango becomes the first collaboration between Costner and writer/director Kevin Reynolds. They would latter pair for the box office highs of 1991’s Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves to the lows of 1995’s oft-lambasted Waterworld.

Reynolds made his debut as a feature director with Fandango, an expansion of 1980’s short film Proof. That effort lives in Fandango via a skydiving scene, as that offered the entirety of the 1980 product.

It seems like a stretch to extend one 24-minute short into a 91-minute feature, and Fandango shows the strains. A coming of age tale that attempts to touch a lot of bases, it never satisfies.

Fandango can never decide if it wants to offer a drama about young adults on the cusp of the “real world”, a Vietnam-era social commentary or a broad comedy. Reynolds fails to find a way to mesh these components, so the movie comes with a jarring mix of tonal shifts.

It also often feels like a collection of semi-related scenes in search of an actual story. Granted, films of this sort often revolve around loose narratives, as they follow the characters’ personal journeys more than strict plot information.

Perhaps a sign of how little inspiration Reynolds churned up, he recreates an awful lot of Proof, as the skydiving scene in Fandango runs forever. Rather than offer a quick detour to facilitate bonding and comedy, this sequence goes way too long and it grinds the movie to a halt.

Or it would if the rest of Fandango seemed more compelling. I guess I shouldn’t complain too much about the never-ending skydiving segment since the movie remains so rambling the rest of the time.

If Reynolds managed to develop more engaging roles or involving situations, the film’s lack of coherence wouldn’t matter so much. Unfortunately, the “Groovers” act as a loosely defined mix of archetypes who never become more than one-dimensional.

Nearly 30 during the shoot, Costner looks too old to play a dude just done with college, and the role doesn’t suit him. Eventually Costner would settle into the kind of taciturn Gary Cooper-esque style that worked for his limited range, but Gardner forces the actor away from his natural talents.

Fandango asks Costner to play a wild, rebellious sort, and he can’t pull off these demands. He always feels awkward and unnatural in the part.

Perversely, Nelson gets stuck with stiff straight arrow Phil, a role that feels more in Costner’s domain. Given that Nelson would attain fame one month after this release as a “bad boy” in The Breakfast Club, it seems easier to see him as the unconventional one, so both he and Costner feel miscast.

That said, even if those two reversed roles, Fandango would still suffer from its general lack of coherence or dramatic impact. It never connects as a coming of age story or a character tale, so expect a muddled, dull tale.

Footnote: it remains funny to see Nelson go from college grad in January 1985’s Fandango to a high school student in February 1985’s Breakfast Club back to a post-college working man via June 1985’s St. Elmo’s Fire. Then in his mid-20s, Nelson pulled off Club’s Bender better than the two older roles.

The Disc Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus D-

Fandango appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. I didn’t expect much from the transfer, so I was pleased by the pretty positive results.

Sharpness was usually good. A little softness affected wider shots, but any lack of definition was typical for films of this one’s era. Overall clarity appeared solid.

I saw no jagged edges or moiré effects, and edge haloes remained absent. Print flaws also failed to cause issues, as I discerned no obvious defects.

With a fairly low-key palette, the colors of Fandango worked acceptably well. The tones tended toward sandy browns to match the arid settings and I thought the hues generally came across as well-depicted.

Blacks were mostly dark and firm, and low-light shots offered reasonable clarity. No one will view this as a demo film, but given the era in which it was made, the end result satisfied.

As for the movie’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, it worked fine for a low-budget flick from 1985. That said, don’t expect a ton of ambition.

Much of the time, the soundscape remained essentially monaural, but it opened at times. Music spread to the sides reasonably nicely, and effects occasionally brought life to the proceedings.

Those moments occurred mainly during “fantasy” scenes, such as when the guys imagined a graveyard as a Vietnam battleground. These brought a good sense of movement and surroundings, but they popped up too infrequently to add a whole lot to a largely subdued soundscape.

Audio quality seemed satisfying given the flick’s vintage, with speech that appeared natural and concise. Music showed pretty good range and clarity.

As noted, effects didn’t often get much to do, but they felt fairly accurate, and the smattering of louder scenes boasted good punch. This became a more than adequate soundtrack for a circa 1985 movie.

The disc includes the movie’s trailer and no other extras.

An early effort from Kevin Costner, Fandango maintains some appeal as a look at the star pre-fame. Unfortunately, the movie itself becomes a slow, unconvincing character tale that struggles to fill its 91 minutes with interesting material. The Blu-ray boasts generally good picture and audio but it lacks bonus materials. Leave this one to die-hard Costner fans.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 2
0 3:
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