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Blast from the Past Movie Review – “The Last Detail” (1973)

August 29, 2011

There are plenty of road trip comedies out there, but this was one of the original best. From Hal Ashby, comes his third directing gig, this time teaming up with then up and coming star Jack Nicolson. Along for the ride are two great supporting players, Randy Quaid & Otis Young. The film is about last chances, partying, women, drinking, and understanding about the choices we make and how we deal with them. A great script by legendary screenwriter Robert Towne, “The Last Detail” really brings a fun look at someones last week before they’re sent away to jail.

The starts out by introducing two navy lifers who seem to becoming close to their end in the Navy, “Bad-Ass” Buddusky (Nicolson), and “Mule” Mulhall (Young). They’re suddenly brought together to be assigned one last detail, by escorting a 17 year old pilferer named Meadows (Quaid) to the brig in Portsmouth for attempting to steal money from a superior officer’s wifes chairity. Meadows is a pathetic thief and a pathetic sailor at best, at 17 he is not much of a man at all, just a wussy. For his crime, he’s been sentenced to eight years behind bars. At first, Buddusky and Mulhall view the journey as a paid vacation, but their holiday spirits are quickly sadden by the depressed Meadows, who looks prepared to break into tears at any moment. Meadows is at his wits end at the lowest self-image imaginable. Buddusky gets it into his head to give Meadows one last good time and teach him a bit about getting on in the world as a man. From serving him his first beer to sleeping with his first woman, in a NYC whore house. This will be the time that Meadows will never forget.

For a movie that’s only 38-years-old, it ages quite well. It’s crude, rude, foul, there’s drinking, drugs, woman, it has the qualites of an R rated comedy that we’re used to for todays viewers, which is why I’d highly advise younger audiences check this movie out. It’s very funny, Nicolson is a riot as this macho-“bad ass” who sees the world as his playground. Hal Ashby’s comedy has had a nostalgic touch in the crude territory, but still maintains it’s strong sentimental characters that the audience can connect to. Meadows is a character I believe people can identify with. Many of us have felt weak & desperate, sometimes had the urge to steal just to see if they can make ends meet. The time this film came out America was already in another depression, much like today, all the more reason that a younger audience should have the opportunity to view this movie.

The performances are extremely memorable, you’ve got a classic Jack performance here, which garnerd his third Oscar nomination. Randy Quaid also gives a great performance as the innocent boy, he too earned his first Oscar nomination. Otis Young adds an extra spark to the group. The dynamic between the three is always a riot; the interaction, the dialogue, and parent/child-like relationships between Nicolson & Quaid are very well done. Robert Towne’s script gives us a great depiction of the modernized America of the 1970s. The people, the settings, the desperation that people go through, all going on in the midst of a road comedy.

I remember reading in an article at one time, Seth Rogen had said that this movie was the movie that made him want to write comedy, and it makes sense too. The content screams Apatow comedy viewers of today.

GRADE: A

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