It’s time for yet another movie from the ’90s vault! This time, we join a top-notch cast for a bit of a comedy crime caper around San Francisco: Sneakers. Brooke, start us off. What did you think of this movie, why do you think this made the list, and also confirm for us once and for all: Can we really call Robert Redford a silver fox when clearly, his hair is on the sandy gold side of things?
B: I’ll first say I would have been way more excited about this movie if I knew River Phoenix and Robert Redford were going to be involved. As it was I knew nothing and so expected nothing. I pretty much loved this ridiculous, ridiculous ’90s movie. First, this cast is absurdly stacked and everyone seems to be having a great time. Second, I had a tremendous time making film snob comments and listening to you and Justin bristle. Third, I really like a good ensemble comedy.
I imagine Sneakers falls into the category of ’90s movies that became staples in the Moody home during the Blockbuster years, hence us watching it now. Also, 1992 had to be around the time young Annemarie was starting to crush hard on boys and River Phoenix is obvs the dreamiest. I also know you love a bit of levity, so a movie that combines clever heist action with a dreamy boy and a badass lady who keeps it all on track feels very on brand.
I’m really, very glad you brought up this whole Robert Redford question early on. Yes, his hair appear sandy gold, but he’s definitely in the silver fox phase of life at this point, since you know, he’s FIFTY-SIX at the time this was made. I know Robert still wears a henley like he’s doing it a favor during the heist-planning scenes of this movie, but he’s firmly in silver fox territory. Just you wait until we watch Three Days of The Condor, which was made a full 17 years earlier. Then you’ll be able to appreciate him as a foxy grown ass man and clearly see the distinction between ’70s hot Redford and ’90s silver fox Redford.
Okay, AM: Tell us if I’m right about this movie as your pick. Then give me your favorite character and your favorite “sneak” maneuver.
A: You’re right on target with the Blockbuster days. We actually rented from King Soopers or the local Video King (who also gave me my first job circa 2000!), but you got it. My dad was usually in charge of the renting. I don’t remember why he was given such an important responsibility, and he routinely would joke about not being able to rent our desired film and would often pretend he’d rented Rugrats in Paris instead. No clue why, except that my sister and I were horrified by this idea for some reason and the joke carried on for YEARS. Rick Moody knows how to carry on a “dad” joke, that’s for sure. Brooke, do you remember not being able to rent the movie you wanted on a Saturday night? That’s a relic from the ’90s that I think we can all agree is better off dead.
Also, it must be noted that we ALWAYS watched a movie on Saturday nights with delivery pizza (with whatever coupon was best that week) and either orange or grape soda. It was the one meal of the week in which we were allowed soda (and pizza for that matter), and the only meal of the week in which we could eat in the family room on the couch. Big. Deal.
Ok, back to Sneakers. This was one of our instant faves in the Moody household for all of the reasons Brooke mentioned. I actually don’t remember crushing per se on River Phoenix in THIS movie, but when we watch The Thing Called Love soon you will see when Actual Peak River Phoenix happens. He’s def dreamy in Sneakers, but I was mostly there for the ensemble cast. You mentioned how stacked it is, and it’s actually kind of impressive that an under-the-radar heist comedy should have so many amazing actors.
Favorite character far and away is Mary McDonnell’s Liz. She’s Bob Redford’s (Marty) ex-girlfriend, but due to the fact that she’s perhaps the only person on earth to know Marty’s true identity, she gets caught up in the proceedings — and does she ever come with some wisdom. And my favorite maneuver is the back-tracking using only Whistler’s audio expertise to figure out where the kidnappers take Marty. So great, if improbable.
Brooke, same questions back to you. And then let’s talk about that soundtrack. You had strong feelings about the music.
B: I notice you have no rebuttal to my (correct) Robert Redford hotness trajectory, so I’m going to assume you’re signing off on my logic. And now onto the questions. I have to agree with you about Liz, she was pretty great, and I was consistently struck by later heist movie performances seem to be influenced by the sort of “cool” vibe Mary McDonnell has going here. In the Nic Cage version of Gone in Sixty Seconds Angelina Jolie does a lot of “I’m out of the life” stuff followed by an inability to resist getting pulled in stuff, and obviously she bails the boys out a number of times. Likewise, Charlize Theron in The Italian Job becomes reluctant bait to distract a smart adversary while the guys do their thing (I don’t love that both of them get voluntold to do this, but that’s a gripe for another series, literally). So, for me, a lot of the fun with Liz was watching her check this rather classic box but put her own twist on it.
I think my favorite sneak was the absolutely terrible vocal passport the team edited together after Liz’s date with the guy (Stephen Tobolowsky) who is terrible at being on dates. The low-rent nature of that spliced-together garbage was so realistic that it kind of tickled me. That said, there is a sneak maneuver I have major beef with — Redford does the old “swap out the box/item” move no less than three times in this movie and never once does anyone see it coming. Not the bad guy or the even worse guy or the government big wigwith the power to make ANY deal. That’s just lazy writing. At least one of those smart people should have known better. And, someone who has been on the lam for decades should have more clever tricks. I did love James Earl Jones as that government official, but wow.
Which brings me pretty naturally into the score. The music in this movie was totally bonkers and had no chill. NO CHILL. Like Redford is walking down the street or talking to someone in a low stakes moment and the heavy, ominous piano is all over that shit. BUNNANNANANANANABUMBUMBUM. It sounded like the soundtracks I listen to when I need to get into an adversarial, adrenaline-rushed mindspace to meet a tight deadline. The DURNABABABUMBUMDUMDUMDA doom chorus is used so often that it loses all meaning. By the time we get to the climax with the super slow and casual getaway it seems completely ludicrous. I wasn’t there for it.
I know you disagree, so go ahead and defend this choice. I’ll entertain your thoughts.
A: I do agree with you on the categorization of Redford’s relative hotness, but heartily disagree with you on the score. I am on the record many times with my affection for James Horner’s scores (HELLO HE DID TITANIC), and this is no different. It’s v intense, I’ll grant you that. But I love the ominous clanking piano work and how jarring it is.
This film is a heist caper, albeit one with some absurd moments. But I think the soundtrack provides some real-world energy and danger to the proceedings. People could and do die in situations like this, where the government is not what they seem and the power one has with this newfound machine technology is one many, MANY would kill for. I appreciate the gravitas they’re going for, and also appreciate how the ending sequences are much lighter (in music and in mood) than the middle part of the movie.
By the time the actual government shows up in the end of the third act, and James Earl Jones gets to grant wishes, we’ve already beaten the bad guy (Ben Kingsley), so this bit (which is one of my favorite movie scenes ever), feels like a comedic cherry on top of what had been occasionally a serious film about the dangers of information in a global society.
Brooke, any additional thoughts on my stance? I’m sure we could keep arguing, but also, wouldn’t you rather discuss what you’d ask for if you had James Earl Jones in front of you, willing and able to grant you wishes?
B: Knowing that you’re someone who NEVER watches horror movies unless I talk you into it, I can see why this score jives for you. For me, pianos cue Michael Myers running after someone and a violent end if there’s not some real fast thinking, so it seems wildly out of place, but, I enjoy your passionate defense, so let’s move on to James Earl Jones.
If I had the all-powerful JEJ in front of me and I had him bending to my will, I think I’d request a cottage in the British countryside and enough money for me and some pals to travel the world in style. After that, I’d go back to normal life, but I think whatever I did to get in this position means I should take a well-earned vacation.
Same question back to you!
A: I’d book the best suite on whatever the newest ship in the Silverseas’ fleet and just stay on it forever as it takes me (and obvs husbandfriend Justin) around the world. Plus a spending account!
Also: I’d like world peace.
We’re keeping it in the 90s for our next installment. It’s going to be an Earth Day extravaganza. AKA, we’re watching Bio-Dome just to make Annemarie run the gauntlet of another Pauly Shore movie.
Main image credit: Universal Studios
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