Thanksgiving is a time for families to come together, of course. So why not spend some time here at the Quirky Queue with celebrity film family The Dillons, as in Matt and younger brother Kevin. Sure, we pulled it out of thin air, but these siblings have a pair of early films worth reviewing here, movies that will have you wishing for the good old days when all kids were portrayed as juvenile delinquents.
Over The Edge, 1979
4 / 5 stars
Welcome to New Granada. With the only teen social spot being a tiny, dilapidated rec center that closes at 6 pm, most of the city’s youth resort to sex, drugs, violence and vandalism. Over the Edge centers on Carl (Michael Kramer), new teen resident who soon befriends a host of outcasts including rebel-on-a-bicycle Richie (Matt Dillon, in his debut film appearance). The sordid group of misfits spends their afternoons and evenings loitering around undeveloped properties, shooting bb guns from the overpass, getting in fights and generally causing trouble. (Click the movie poster for a closer look.)
When local policeman Doberman (Harry Northup, Mean Streets, Taxi Driver) steps over the line in disciplining the kids, the youngsters all join forces in an oddly harrowing climax that traps the entire town’s adult population in a school auditorium. (I say have them sit through a high school assembly, that’ll teach ‘em.)
After this film, Dillon would play some version of the same character (My Bodyguard, The Outsiders, Rumble Fish) in many of the brooding teen flicks of the day. Over the Edge is a great introduction to Dillon’s cinematic charisma and natural acting ability, which continue to make him a sought-after performer even today.
The movie was one of those small release films which reached a much-wider audience with the growing popularity of cable television. It has decent drama without moving into the melodramatic and the screenplay (by Charles Haas and Tim Hunter, who would later write other Dillon starrers) offers characterizations far more than the cardboard cutouts found in similar kids-in-trouble movies. The realism is bolstered all the more by veteran actors Northup and Ellen Geer as Carl’s mother, Sandra.
With a story based on real events, Over the Edge hardly suffers from the fact that it’s over 30 years old, with many situations timely enough to reflect even today’s headlines. The film’s time-capsule qualities come from its soundtrack, primarily comprised of the 1977 Cheap Trick album “In Color.” For added fun: Keep your eye out for a very young Vincent Spano (Alphabet City, City of Hope) and be sure to enjoy the “I accidentally dropped LSD before I came to school” sequence.
No Big Deal, 1983
3 / 5 stars
Its easy to imagine that filmmakers would, by default, cast Kevin Dillon in the same type of roles his brother Matt was playing. The first was the made-for-TV movie that’s certainly not as R-rated as Over the Edge but remains, for its time and medium, quite watchable.
It’s basically modeled on the old ABC Afterschool Specials (which, by the way, are all available on DVD). Teacher’s pet Michael (Christopher Gartin) is asked to help the new kid, Arnold (Kevin Dillon) get acclimated to school. Arnold’s just been released from juvenile detention (yep), has a drunk mother and is just no good. He’s more interested in dropping everything and fleeing to Canada instead of socializing and making the grade.
Try as they may, Michael and his friends are unable to pull poor Arnold up from the gutter. Oh, and if you think Michael’s girlfriend, Margaret, looks familiar, it’s because she is: 30 Rock star Jane Krakowski, who would’ve been about 25 at the time.
No Big Deal harkens back to a time when teen films were a bit more innocent. Many of the characters are flat and cliched, but that doesn’t stop Kevin Dillon from standing out.
The title of the film comes from the oft-repeated phrase that Dillon’s character uses, and the actor makes it quite believable; adding some needed depth to the all-too-familiar storyline is TV staple Mary-Joan Negro (The Practice).
Although he may be slightly less endearing and popular with audiences than his older brother, Kevin still exhibits more than capable acting chops in this very tame effort. Of course, he would eventually break out in his own right with roles in Platoon, The Doors, and gory cult-classic update The Blob, until finding nearly unconditional fan love as Johnny Drama on Entourage. It’s always fun to see an actor’s roots.