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The Sure Thing
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What 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.
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?
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.
Talk to your kids 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.