The Sure Thing

  • Review Date: December 28, 2008
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 1985

Common Sense Media says

1980s teen-sex comedy that actually has an IQ.
  • Review Date: December 28, 2008
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 1985

Age(i)

2
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5
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9
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17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Positive messages

As part of the "opposites attract" formula here, Gib is an irresponsible, hedonistic type and heavy drinker whose ideal of romance is one of unattached, casual sex; meanwhile conservative Alison is haughty and repressed. During the course of the narrative, however, they appreciate each others' differences, to the point that when Gib gets his chance at a "sure thing," he misses Alison instead -- just as she pines for Gib over her stilted and boring boyfriend. Both these young people change for the better and learn mutual respect -- with the questionable proposition that heavy drinking and reckless, rowdy behavior are shown as "growth." Parents as role models and influences are invisible.

Violence

A passing threat of hitchhiker molestation-rape that doesn't materialize.

Sex

A bare-butt shot of an anonymous male character "mooning" the heroes. Alison responds by taking her top off, but nothing is shown. Much footage of the dream-girl blonde in a revealing string bikini or other skimpy ensembles. There is the sound of two teen characters making loud love and a brief glimpse of them contorted under bedsheets in an unlikely and kinky position. Much talk about sex (in general, non-clinical terms), and a reference to the notorious "letters" column of a popular pornographic magazine. A few homosexual jokes.

Language

"Shit," "bastard," frequent use of "t-ts."

Consumerism

No brand names mentioned, but virtues of beer and junk-food eating are extolled.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Beer and bourbon drinking in profuse amounts, references to marijuana. These are made into positive, empowering indulgences (especially campus beer-binging), and people who abstain from them look drab and colorless.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that there is profanity and sex talk in a script that centers on a teenage college freshman's quest for no-strings-attached sex with a fantasy-figure beach girl. Even though our hero finally reconsiders his priorities, his hang-loose lifestyle and heavy drinking are made to look admirable -- and characters who disdain his wild ways seem cartoonishly stiff and dull. College comes across as a hotbed of sexual experimentation,, and, consequently, co-eds not enjoying regular sex must have something seriously wrong with them. Binge-drinking, "mooning," and "flashing" are portrayed as high-spirited fun.

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What's the story?

Walter "Gib" Gibson (John Cusack) is only 18 and already fears his love life is over. After a series of satisfying sexual encounters throughout high school, Gib failed to "score" during senior year, and now he's at college in the chilly northeast, where he sees his dorm roommate much more successful with co-eds than he is. A California buddy invites Gib over during Christmas break, promising that a sex-mad, suntanned, pretty blond girl -- a "sure thing" -- will be waiting at poolside, just for him. Gib arranges a cross-country ride only to find he must share it with Alison (Daphne Zuniga), a studious classmate reluctantly helping Gib with his hopeless spelling and grammar in the one class he really cares about, creative writing. Alison, on her way to visit her own boyfriend in LA, scorns Gib and his party-hearty attitude. But thrown together during the long, bungled, and complicated trip, the mismatched young people start to fall for each other.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

THE SURE THING premiered during an epidemic of crude teen-sex comedies inspired by Porky's but was embraced by critics as an uncommonly well-written and perceptive romantic comedy. Rising above the basic premise about a hormonal teen male's quest for easy sex, this had smart dialogue and multi-dimensional main characters, better-drawn than many bedroom farces centered on "grownup" relationships. Wonderfully played by Cusack, Gib may be a hedonistic type who believes in living for the moment, but he comes to value the straitlaced Alison, more so than his "sure thing" date (Nicolette Sheridan's character isn't even given a name). This is a rare movie of its type in that you sense that actual studying happens at a university, not just sleeping around and intrigue. Still, parents should be aware of the overarching themes of pre-marital sexual dalliances as an unquestioned rite of passage.

To appreciate The Sure Thing all the more, compare-contrast with the later Sex Drive, which used a near-identical road-trip concept mainly for R-rated bad-taste gags and body-function humiliation.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the characters and their different values toward life and how to enjoy it. Is Gib believable in his evolution into a deeper, more thoughtful person? What about Alison? Ask young viewers if they know odd-couple couples like these two. Do they think the relationship will endure in the long run? Compare The Sure Thing to similar teen-romance comedies; some fans call this one the very best of the genre. Do you agree? You might also try to get young fans to watch It Happened One Night, the (more innocent) 1934 screwball-comedy road-trip classic considered a forerunner of The Sure Thing.

Movie details

Theatrical release date:March 1, 1985
DVD release date:August 5, 2003
Cast:Daphne Zuniga, John Cusack, Nicollette Sheridan, Tim Robbins
Director:Rob Reiner
Studio:MGM/UA
Genre:Comedy
Run time:95 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13

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