From The Published Archives: Angus

After posting many examples of my rejected writing I’ve decided it’s time for a change. Starting today you’re going to be seeing some examples of my published work.

Let’s start with a movie review. On September 18, 1995, I went to see a couple of movies. First, I screened Mortal Kombat which was better than I expected but still not a successful film in an artistic sense. (Great art direction, though. The look of the film was first-rate.) Then, I snuck in to see Angus, a delightful, little-seen comedy-drama which was one of the last films the legendary Dawn Steel produced before she succumbed to cancer. You might remember that song JAR by Green Day which popped up on the soundtrack.

I thought something was wrong with me when I watched Angus. I was weeping through the whole thing. Yes, it’s a funny comedy but it’s also incredibly moving. It might be one of the better movies about high school that I’ve seen. I always wondered if I overrated the film because of how teary-eyed I was that night. I honestly thought I was having a serious breakdown about my own life. Maybe I was just too vulnerable to resist this movie. But a few years later I caught part of the movie on TV and sure enough, I was balling again. I finally realized that this movie really connects with me in a truly profound way. That’s all covered in the review. (By the way, the movie is not yet available on DVD. Look for it on tape. It’s worth seeing.)

I started writing my assessment of the film shortly after the screening and 8 days later, an edited version appeared on page 13 in Mohawk College’s student newspaper, The Satellite. After re-reading the article as it appeared in that publication on September 26, 1995, I’ve decided to make some changes. For instance, James Van Der Beek (brilliant as baddie Rick Sandford) and Chris Owen (Angus’ pal, Troy) are now credited. I didn’t know who they were at the time so I didn’t mention them by name. (I always wondered why I never accepted Van Der Beek as a good guy on Dawson’s Creek. It’s because he’s so good as a manipulative creep in Angus. As for Chris Owen, he’s very funny in those American Pie movies playing The Shermanator.)

In the original piece, a whole paragraph had to be excised due to space limitations (that would be the now-restored paragraph 5) and for some unknown reason, a number of contractions I used were changed, making the piece seem like it was written by Data from Star Trek. I also had to make a correction that wasn’t caught until the paper went to press. I realized as I was writing the review that I couldn’t remember the full name of the kid who plays the title role. I knew his first name was Charlie but I guessed wrong on his last name. It’s not Lambert, it’s Talbert. The correct surname appears here for the first time. 

Thanks to this website, you’ll be able to read something only college students had the chance to read, albeit in edited form, 11 years ago. Here it is:

By Dennis Earl 

Every once in a while, there’s an underdog movie that actually works. (99% of them are junk.) That’s why it’s so refreshing to see one that’s charming, funny, moving and, most importantly, entertaining. Angus is that movie. It’s about an overweight high school student who’s a whiz at science but a total boob around girls. (I can relate to that last part.) Actually, it’s just one girl that makes his stomach ache with passion. She’s a cheerleader and as played by Ariana Richards (Jurassic Park), she’s an enigma, a beautiful mystery to our lovable lug of a hero. It doesn’t help matters that he’s picked on everyday by her boyfriend (James Van Der Beek) who just happens to be the Student Council President. (What does she see in this flake, anyway?)

Angus is also a brilliant offensive tackle for his school’s football team but he’s underappreciated. During one early scene in the film, Angus’ consistency on the field is overshadowed by another player on the team who scores the winning touchdown (even though that guy did nothing during the rest of the game). All he wanted to do was impress that cheerleader. She wasn’t even paying attention.

Most of the movie is devoted to Angus seeking his revenge on a school filled with students afraid of befriending someone who is different. They pick on him constantly. The fat jokes fly, his underwear is hung on the same flagpole as the American flag, and he can’t punch out that obnoxious President because he has a great chance at being accepted at a private college. As a result, the torture continues. Eventually, his best friend (Chris Owen) lets him down, too. Nevertheless, our hero is a trooper; a smart guy who knows that there’s more to a woman than her body.

When he’s not at school defending himself, he’s either working on his science project (the determining factor in his application to that college) or seeking advice from his rebellious grandfather (played marvellously by the great George C. Scott) and his mom (the always reliable Kathy Bates).

His grandfather is preparing for his wedding to a woman 30 years younger than he is. He’s facing criticism from his family because of this. She’s too young, they say. He’s too old. What’s a grown man hanging around with a woman who’s old enough to be his daughter? And so on. But Scott takes it all in stride. Screw ’em, he says. Don’t care what other people think of you. And he passes that advice on to Angus who eventually stands up to his bullies, in the movie’s most heartfelt scene, at the school dance. Their relationship is a poignant one.

I enjoyed Angus from beginning to end. Never before have I seen a film that so painfully re-enacts the high school experience. I couldn’t stop the tears from flowing. Even though I knew exactly where the movie was going, I didn’t care. I was enjoying myself and exorcising some demons of my own.

There’s a lot more to Angus than the contrivances of its underdog formula. There’s a sense of hope and a feeling that being yourself at all times is the most precious form of courage we have. I learned a lot from the film and will never forget the performance of Charlie Talbert who makes his debut here (and performs naturally) as Angus Bethune, a guy with a lot of smarts, a lot of guts, a lot of heart, and the girl of his dreams.

I envy the guy. 

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, April 3, 2006
4:45 p.m.
Published in: on April 3, 2006 at 5:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

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