One of the best teen romcoms of the '80s, The Sure Thing is one of those special movies that gets better with age. Director Rob Reiner has a light touch with comedy that serves the story splendidly here--it follows Walter 'Gib' Gibson (John Cusack, at his charming best), a freshman at an East Coast college, who is striking out with all the girls there (his pick-up lines like "How would you like to have a sexual encounter so intense it could conceivably change your political views?" don't help things). Gib is attracted to straight-laced Alison (Daphne 'Princess Vespa' Zuniga), who reluctantly agrees to tutor him in English. After a failed advance, Alison spurns Gib, who spirals into depression. A phone call from his high school buddy Lance (pre-Top Gun Anthony Edwards), who is partyin' it up in California, promises Gib a "sure thing" in blonde sexpot Nicollette Sheridan if he makes the trip out West. Gib hits the road as part of a ride share, only to discover that his companion for the long trip is Alison. They argue so much that they are quickly abandoned by the perky couple--played by Lisa Jane Persky and Tim Robbins, as Gary Cooper ("But not the Gary Cooper that's dead!)--driving them west. What follows is a touching, often hilarious love story with much more character development and depth than similar fare of the decade. The supporting players are also top notch--Broadway vet Boyd Gaines steals scenes as Alison's uber-stuffy long-distance boyfriend Jason (whose idea of a wild time is doubling the points in Gin Rummy), and Viveca Lindfors is great as an eccentric English teacher.
The script, by Steve Bloom and Jonathan Roberts, really pops. It's infinitely quotable (some of my favorites include "Spontaneity has its time and place," "You know, junk food doesn't deserve the bad rap that it gets. Take these pork rinds for example. This particular brand contains two percent of the R.D.A. - that's Recommended Daily Allowance - of riboflavin," and "You're gonna name the kid Elliot? No, you can't name the kid Elliot. Elliot is a fat kid with glasses who eats paste.") It's like a 90 minute "meet cute." There's an overwhelming sweetness to the whole thing that really works--and the chemistry between Cusack and Zuniga is undeniable. This is definitely one of Reiner's best films--sandwiched between This Is Spinal Tap and The Princess Bride, it's a reflection of an emerging filmmaker starting to hit his stride.