The Buddy System (Movie Review)

Movie Review
The Buddy System
1984
Starring: Richard Dreyfuss, Susan Sarandon, Wil Wheaton, Nancy Allen, Jean Stapleton
Directed by: Glenn A. Jordan

The Buddy System feels like it was crafted in a Hollywood factory and designed to make a few bucks at the box office without much thought. Considering the acting talent involved, you would think Glenn A. Jordan would have been able to make something more than a good pilot for a sitcom. However, The Buddy System is not a television pilot but a feature film. It’s barely decent while it lasts but it really doesn’t have an enduring quality that will make you want to go back to it or even remember much of it after viewing.

Joe (Dreyfuss) is a security officer at a school where he gets a tip that a boy attending the school is not part of the school district. Upon being confronted, Tim (Wheaton) invites Joe to meet his single mother Emily (Sarandon). Emily initially thinks Joe is a creep and wants nothing to do with him. However, Tim has no friends and begins spending time with Joe. In turn, Tim begins to be more of interested in school. As Emily sees Tim’s quality of life improving with Joe around, her and Joe become quite close. The family dynamic gets complicated when Joe’s old flame Carrie (Allen), returns to Joe’s life and Joe’s inventions start to become successful.

You would think with the pairing of Dreyfuss and Sarandon that you would get a compelling movie. While the pair do have chemistry, they both feel replaceable. Sarandon, in particular, is less than convincing during her angrier scenes. Dreyfuss isn’t exactly stealing the show himself as he seems to be proud of everything that comes out of his mouth. Then there’s Wheaton who fills the trope of having a child actor act smarter than everyone in the room, with plenty of provocative things coming out of his mouth (I didn’t count, but I’m sure that Wheaton’s character used the most profanity in this movie). It’s as if everyone involved looked at the script and thought it was a cute story but isn’t going to be winning awards and phoned it in.

With that said, The Buddy System is not a horrible movie. It didn’t feel like 110 minutes and it had some genuinely funny scenes. There were a number of story issues, predominately the whole Carrie storyline. It would make sense, given the choice at the beginning why Joe would pick Carrie over Emily, but when she returns to conclude the second act, it doesn’t make any sense. It’s not as if Joe has been moaning about how he lost Carrie; he appeared to move on and be happy with his new relationship with Emily. The weird thing is that it comes across as predictable because you sense that the movie is going to throw in a twist to make the third act compelling. There are several bait-and-switch storyline elements throughout the film but they’re badly written and most viewers will see them coming a mile away. Despite these hiccups throughout this easy-to-follow story, the interaction between the characters make the film watchable even though the script has a number of shortcomings.

Normally, when I write a movie review, I try not to go into the film’s age or how I watched the movie. However, getting my hands on this movie was difficult and I don’t understand why. Considering that the two leads in the movie both won Academy Awards and that this film isn’t a complete mess, it shouldn’t be that hard to get a hold of. However, as far as I know, it’s never been released on DVD/Blu-Ray and it’s not available to stream. With the amount of forgettable and awful films out there that are readily available, it’s hard to imagine why this movie seems to have fallen into a black hole. While I wouldn’t watch it again any time soon, it’s not something I feel needs to be banished.

Glenn A. Jordan may have dropped the ball with The Buddy System as It should have been better than it was. As it stands, it’s a perfectly watchable film, but considering the acting pedigree, it should have been outstanding. Instead, it felt like those involved weren’t interested in putting everything into it. It’s kind of just there; or not there since the movie has become so obscure. Even if you somehow manage to find this movie, it’s not something you need to rush to see. It’s very meh.

Rating: 2 out of 5.
Jamie Gore

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