Matinee (1993)

Genres - Comedy Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Parody/Spoof, Coming-of-Age, Americana  |   Run Time - 99 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Joe Dante is a guy who loves his exploitation films, as anyone who has read his early writings for Famous Monsters of Filmland or Film Bulletin knows, and his 1992 feature Matinee is a delightful and heartfelt valentine to the gimmicky low-budget schlock of his youth. John Goodman, a fine comic actor who is rarely used well onscreen, is (for a change) perfectly cast as big and blustery Lawrence Woolsey, a low-rent showman who is sincere and honest about only one thing -- giving the audience what they came for. While Woolsey is obviously meant to stand in for the great gimmickmeister William Castle, at the same time he seems the embodiment of every low-budget would-be mogul who struggled to get his movies seen by popcorn-eating crowds across the nation, and Goodman's engaging performance makes even his crassest hucksterism endearing. (He also has a fine foil in Cathy Moriarty, the least convincing fake nurse in film history.) Simon Fenton is also funny and engaging as Gene Loomis, the youthful monster movie fan who gets to know the great Lawrence Woolsey as he arrives in Florida to open his latest picture, Mant! (which, starring Robert Cornthwaite, Kevin McCarthy, and William Schallert, would probably be a pretty good movie), as the Cuban Missile Crisis threatens to end the world as everyone knows it. And while Dante does pass along a semi-serious message about the importance of fun scares in a terrifying world, he seems to be having a great time invoking the "are the Fifties really over yet?" vibe of 1962, as kids listen to Lenny Bruce records on the sly, juvenile delinquents ape the method-acting angst of James Dean and Marlon Brando, and the local beatnik couple would never dare be seen in public without their copy of Jack Kerouac's Dr. Sax. Matinee manages the neat trick of being genuinely nostalgic without being sappy about it, and understanding the adolescent mind without seeming immature; it's funny, charming, and a must for anyone who loves '50s and '60s scare flicks.