Angus (film)

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Angus
Angus movie 1995.jpg
Theatrical poster released in 1995
Directed byPatrick Read Johnson
Produced byDawn Steel
Charles Roven
Written byJill Gordon
Starring
Music byDavid E. Russo
CinematographyAlexander Gruszynski
Edited byJanice Hampton
Production
company
Distributed byNew Line Cinema
Release date
September 15, 1995
Running time
87 min.
CountryUnited States
United Kingdom
Germany
France
LanguageEnglish
Budget$1.5 million
Box office$4.8 million

Angus is a 1995 comedy film directed by Patrick Read Johnson. The majority was filmed in Owatonna, Minnesota, at the Owatonna Senior High School. It stars Charlie Talbert and James Van Der Beek in their first film roles, as well as Chris Owen, Ariana Richards, George C. Scott, Kathy Bates, and Rita Moreno. The film is based on the short story A Brief Moment in the Life of Angus Bethune by Chris Crutcher, which is collected in his book Athletic Shorts: Six Short Stories.

Plot[edit]

Angus Bethune is an overweight teenage boy living in Minnesota who, despite his talents as a football player and in science class, holds deep insecurities about himself. Since kindergarten, he has been regularly harassed by handsome but cruel Rick Sanford and his complacent cohorts, for not being "normal". His only friend is Troy Wedberg, who is also a social outcast. Angus has feelings for Melissa Lefevre, though he is fearful of expressing it because she is dating Rick. Eventually, tired of the abuse from Rick, Angus applies to a magnet school where he hopes to be free of the constant humiliation. However, well aware of his feelings for Melissa, Rick rigs an election so that they will dance together in the upcoming freshman Winter Ball as King and Queen, respectively. After the stunt, the principal forbids Angus to lay a hand on Rick, or he would be expelled and lose his chance to go to the magnet school.

To prepare for the dance, Angus gets help from Troy, his mother, Meg, and his narcoleptic grandfather, Ivan. Angus takes dancing lessons with Madame Rulenska, but the lessons go badly. Later on, despite his request for a black tuxedo, Ivan purchases him a plum suit and tells him that he can be normal and an individual at the same time. He tells him that running away to another school will not solve anything and that he needs to stand up against Rick.

One day after school, Rick and company kidnap Troy and ask him for anything that would embarrass Angus at the Winter Ball. Troy refuses to help them and tries to escape, only to break his arm as he trips to the floor while Rick gives him an ultimatum. At home, Meg tells Ivan that Angus' transfer to a magnet school would be for the best. Ivan accuses Meg of over-mothering Angus and warns her that letting him run away from his bullies is a mistake.

Angus helps Ivan prepare for his and his fiancée April's wedding. As Angus waits outside Ivan's room on the day of the wedding, he confides with him about his love for Melissa and how wishes he could stand up to Rick and tell Melissa how he feels. When he tries to wake him, Angus quickly discovers that Ivan has died and tells the wedding guests there. Distraught, Angus opts to stay home for a few days trying to cope with Ivan's death.

Fearing a reprisal from Rick, Troy gives him a videotape containing footage of Angus practicing his dancing with an inflatable doll while confessing his feelings for Melissa. Troy then visits Angus at home to offer his condolences, and an argument ensues. When Troy calls him out for not understanding how it feels to be ostracized by Rick, Angus snaps and tells Troy that he knows better. He also tells Troy that he won't go to the Winter Ball mainly because he still plans to transfer, to escape Rick's humiliation and to better cope with his grandfather's death.

Later that week, Angus receives a box from April and opens it, revealing the plum suit that he had earlier rejected. She wishes him luck in the future and leaves. In that moment, Angus realizes that Ivan was right all along: he needs to stand up for himself and face Rick or nothing will change. Resolved to follow Ivan's advice, he rejects an interview from the magnet school, wears the plum suit, and marches to the dance in the school gymnasium. Outside, Troy warns Angus that Rick has a terrible prank planned for him, and advises him to turn around and return home at once. Angus rebuffs his warning and meets Melissa inside, and they converse for the first time. As they are introduced to the students, Rick plays Troy's videotape on the monitors, and the students laugh. A humiliated Melissa punches Rick in the face and runs out in tears. Angus follows her, infuriated with Troy for betraying him to Rick.

Angus apologizes to Melissa, but she does not blame him. Instead, she reveals her disgust with Rick and confesses to Angus that she is bulimic. She also mentions that Rick is very controlling and abusive towards her and the other students. Angus learns that Melissa likes him more than Rick because he is kind and respectful of others. Finding common ground, they go back inside and dance, even as she helps him out with some of the steps. After receiving a mild reception from the students, Rick scolds her, while Angus comes to her defense. Rick begins aggressively shoving Angus and follows up with a hard punch to the face, breaking Angus's nose and sending him crashing through a table. Angus defiantly rises to his feet and shouts back, "I'm still here, asshole!" Angus then repeatedly pushes Rick until he falls to the ground, telling him that no matter how many times Rick knocks him down, he will always get back up. Angus petitions him to realize that there are many people that don't fit his idea of "normal," and are unwittingly ostracized for it, and are fed up with the humiliation. He gives Rick a choice to join them and accept them as individuals, or continue to think of himself as normal. Rick selfishly replies, "Whatever I am, it's something you're never gonna be," to which Angus retorts, "Thank God!" The students congratulate Angus and even Rick's former friends abandon him. Melissa dances with Angus again and Troy enacts revenge on Rick by breaking his nose with his cast and impressing a girl upon whom he has a crush.

Melissa asks Angus to walk her home, and they kiss before Melissa retires for the night. Angus rejects the offer to transfer to the magnet school, realizing that his grandfather was right and that he doesn't have to run away anymore. Angus mentions that Rick was suspended for his video prank and for breaking Troy's arm. He also mentions that Rick's popularity with the other students suffered since Angus stood up to him and thus they have no reason to fear him anymore.

Alternate cut[edit]

Early in production, the film contained scenes wherein Angus' father was gay, reflecting the original story. Producer Dawn Steel at first approved the idea, but upon seeing a test screening she asked director Johnson to cut it. Hence, it is said early in the film that he died when Angus was born.[citation needed]

In addition, deleted and extended scenes are integrated into the cut-for-television version of the film to make up running time.[citation needed]

Cast[edit]

Reception[edit]

Some critics consider the film as a superficial after-school special for its familiar underdog story and inherent preachiness. As such, it scores a 40% "rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[1] It was released in a wave of other obesity-related films that came out at the time, notably Heavyweights (1995), which went for mostly comedy, and Heavy (1996), which was a strong drama. It straddled the fence between comedy and drama, at points to its detriment to some critics.

Some reviewers conclude that it more accurately portrays high school life than similar films about adolescence, since it takes a critical view of obesity, bullying, self-esteem, and high school inclusiveness, while highlighting the importance of assuring oneself in an ideologically competitive world. Reviews of note in this camp is Roger Ebert's 3 star review, starting "Here it is at last, at long last, after years and years and years: A movie where the smart fat kid gets the girl and humiliates the football hero."[2]

The film's lead, Charlie Talbert, was also given mixed reviews. Rita Kempley of the Washington Post said "Charlie Talbert, a 16-year-old discovered in line at an Illinois Wendy's, brings neither experience nor charisma to the title role of this stock tale of petty adolescent cruelties."[3] Emanuel Levy,[who?] while giving the film a "C", conceded Angus was "played by newcomer Charles M. Talbert with a certain charm."[4] Ebert's review of the film concludes with "Charlie Talbert is a good casting choice for Angus, because he isn't a "sort of" fat kid, like those models in the King Size catalog who look about 12 pounds overweight. He is fat. But he is also smart, likable, resilient and engaging. And he has the gift of deflecting his shortcomings with humor."[2]

Box office[edit]

The film was released theatrically in North America on Friday, September 15, 1995, on 1,154 screens.[5] It debuted in eighth place amidst the crowded box office. It opened against Hackers and Clockers, while To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar, Dangerous Minds, The Usual Suspects, and Braveheart were still having a strong showing in box office numbers.[6] To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar ultimately won the weekend with $6,544,960 as it expanded to 1,448 screens.

In its second weekend, Sept 22–24, the film slipped to twelfth place with $1,314,839 from 1,156 screens, its widest release (a percentage drop of 31.3%). Se7en opened on this weekend and won the box office with $13,949,807 from 2,441 screens.[7]

Availability[edit]

The film was released on VHS on August 27, 1996, but is currently on moratorium. It was later shown in an edited-for-television form on Turner owned cable television stations.

On December 17, 2009, Warner Archive released the film as an official DVD.

Soundtrack[edit]

Angus: Music from the Motion Picture
Soundtrack album to the film Angus by
Various artists
ReleasedAugust 22, 1995 (1995-08-22)
RecordedMarch 1993–May 1995
Genre
Length34:48
LabelWarner Bros. Records
Singles from Angus: Music from the Motion Picture
  1. "J.A.R."
    Released: July 10, 1995
Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
Allmusic3/5 stars[8]

The film's soundtrack accurately reflects the melodic ideas prevalent in the alternative rock scene at the time. Most of the bands perform songs that closely resonate with its themes while keeping a fast yet upbeat tone, a sharp departure from the age of grunge, which had just reached its twilight. Weezer's initial offering, a song entitled "Wanda (You're My Only Love)" (or sometimes just "Wanda"), was written specifically for the film but rejected for being "too much of a strict interpretation of the movie" and for not sounding enough like what was expected of Weezer at the time. The previously written, more uptempo "You Gave Your Love to Me Softly" was used instead, and the rejection of the former song was known to have hurt Weezer's singer and songwriter Rivers Cuomo at the time. Though Weezer never properly recorded "Wanda", Cuomo released his 1994 demo of the song (along with the story of the song's submission and rejection) in 2007 on the album Alone: The Home Recordings of Rivers Cuomo.

The unique version of "Am I Wrong" by Love Spit Love, mixing marching band horns into its original version which interplay well with Richard Butler's raw vocals. Green Day contributed "J.A.R. (Jason Andrew Relva)", a song written by bassist Mike Dirnt about his friend who died in a car accident when he was 19. It peaked at number one on the Modern Rock Billboard charts of 1995. It was later released on their 2001 greatest hits album, International Superhits. Meanwhile, Green Day singer Billie Joe Armstrong co-produced "Back to You" by the Riverdales with producer Mass Giorgini, which was featured during the dance sequence at the high prom in the film.

The music supervisors for the film were Elliot Cahn and Jeff Saltzman, who, at the time, also managed two of the soundtrack's artists: Green Day and The Muffs.

Track listing[edit]

  1. "J.A.R." - Green Day - 2:52
  2. "Jack Names the Planets" - Ash - 3:13
  3. "Enough" - Dance Hall Crashers - 3:01
  4. "Kung Fu" - Ash - 2:17
  5. "Back to You" - Riverdales - 3:33
  6. "Mrs. You and Me" - Smoking Popes - 3:34
  7. "You Gave Your Love to Me Softly" - Weezer - 1:59
  8. "Ain't That Unusual" - Goo Goo Dolls - 3:18
  9. "Funny Face" - The Muffs - 3:21
  10. "White Homes" - Tilt - 2:09
  11. "Deep Water" - Pansy Division - 2:10
  12. "Am I Wrong" - Love Spit Love (Marching band version, similar to its appearance in the film - not labeled as such) - 3:34

References[edit]

External links[edit]