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Angus
Directed by Patrick Read Johnson
Produced by Dawn Steel
Written by Chris Crutcher
Starring Charlie Talbert
Kathy Bates
George C. Scott
James Van Der Beek
Chris Owen
Ariana Richards
Music by David E. Russo
Cinematography Alexander Gruszynski
Editing by Janice Hampton
Studio BBC
Atlas Entertainment
Turner Pictures
Distributed by New Line Cinema
Release date(s) September 15, 1995
Running time 87 min.
Country United States
United Kingdom
Germany
France
Language English
Budget $1.5 million
Gross revenue $4,821,759

Angus is a 1995 comedy-drama film directed by Patrick Read Johnson and written by Jill Gordon. The majority of Angus was filmed in Owatonna, Minnesota at the Owatonna High School. The film stars Charlie Talbert and James Van Der Beek in their first film roles, as well as Chris Owen, Ariana Richards, and Academy Award winners 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.

Noteworthy is the performance of newcomer Charlie Talbert, who was scouted in a Illinois Wendy's,[1] as the title character and the interaction between Angus and his grandfather (Scott), whose philosophy can be summed up in his recurring line: "Screw 'em!"

Contents

Plot

Angus Bethune (Charlie Talbert) is a teenage boy living in Minnesota, who despite his talents as a football player and in science class, holds deep insecurities about himself. His high school peers, led by the handsome Rick Sanford (James Van Der Beek) and his complacent cohorts, regularly harass Angus for not being "normal," since Angus is overweight and is, in their view, "named after a cow." Because of this, Angus applies for a magnet school where he hopes to be free of the constant humiliation. Such infamy has shied Angus away from revealing his feelings to his secret crush, the blonde cheerleader Melissa Lefevre (Ariana Richards), for fear that she will reject him, and because she is dating Rick. Rick, however, is not lost on Angus' wish: As the ultimate prank, he rigs an election so that Angus and Melissa will dance together in the upcoming Winter Ball as King and Queen, respectively.

Frightened upon learning this, Angus gets help from his best (and only) friend Troy Wedberg (Chris Owen), his mother Meg (Kathy Bates), and his narcoleptic Grampa (George C. Scott). His grandfather tells him about a dance move called the Irish Swoon that he claims is a guaranteed lady-pleaser, but Angus fears that his largeness makes him an inept dancer and would embarrass both him and Melissa. To fix this, Grampa takes Angus to Madame Rulenska (Rita Moreno), where despite Angus' best efforts he comes out worse than before (and injuring the hapless Madame in the process).

One day after football practice, Angus opens his locker and sees that his favorite pair of boxers are missing. Angus and Troy learn later with their own eyes that their fellow quarterback Rick hoisted his boxers up the flagpole for the school to see, which then fly squarely onto passerby Melissa's face. Angus storms home in anger, but Rick and company quickly kidnap Troy, asking him for anything that would embarrass Angus at the Winter Ball. Troy refuses their request and tries to escape, only to break his arm as he trips to the floor while Rick gives Troy an ultimatum.

Meanwhile, Angus helps Grampa prepare for his marriage to the young thirty-something named April (Anna Thomas). As Angus waits with Grampa in his room on the day of the wedding and confides with him his love for Melissa, he tries to wake him, but he quickly discovers that he is dead. Distraught, Angus opts to stay home for a few days (time in which, for fear that Rick will hurt him even more, Troy procures a videotape to Rick).

Later that week, while cleaning up from the wedding, Angus receives a box from April and opens it, revealing the plum suit that Angus had earlier rejected. Resolved to grant Grampa's wish, he rejects an interview from the science school he applied to, wears his plum suit and marches to the school gymnasium, where the dance is held. Angus meets Melissa, and the two converse for the first time. As they are introduced to the students, Rick plays Troy's videotape on the monitors, which shows Angus dancing with an inflatable doll. The students laugh while Melissa runs out of the gym, and Angus follows. Outside the gym, Angus apologizes, yet surprisingly Melissa shows her disgust with Rick and reveals that she is bulimic and that Rick is very controlling and it is even hinted that he can be abusive. Finding common ground, the two return to the gym and dance, even as Melissa helps him out with some of the steps. After the two receive a mild reception from the students, Rick scolds Melissa, while Angus comes to her defense. It is here that Angus finally confronts Rick and petitions him to realize that there are in fact many people that don't fit Rick's idea of "normal," are unwantingly ostracized for it, and are fed up with the humiliation. Rick refuses Angus' plea by replying "Whatever I am, it's something you're never gonna be," to which Angus replies "Thank God!". The students congratulate Angus for taking a stand against Rick.

In the end, Angus rejects the offer to transfer to the high school to which he applied after he takes his stand against Rick realizing he doesn't have to run away anymore making him the victor in his battle with Rick and his peers. It is also learned that Rick was suspended for his videotape prank against Angus. Melissa lets Angus walk her home and the two actually share a kiss, implying that the two may have a relationship.

Cast

Themes

During the film, Angus takes counsel from two people: Troy Wedberg, a small and geeky boy who attempts to turn Angus into a "large pathetic virgin with a new look" by giving Angus an edgier style and encouraging him to exercise in hopes that Angus will look more attractive; and Angus' grandfather, an assured yet narcoleptic crank who readies himself to marry a woman thirty years his junior, who encourages Angus to go to the ball by ordering him to stop caring about what everyone else will think of him and his pairing with the popular Melissa. Thus we are introduced to two opposing ideals of which Angus must choose: Adopt a new personality that would give him the long-term acceptance he longs, or overcome his shame and accept himself as a unique individual. The question is exemplified in a scene where Angus, Grampa, and Troy shop in a tuxedo store, where the only suit available in Angus' size comes in the color of plum. Troy mocks the suit ("Put it on a dead guy and bury it.") while Angus begs Grampa to buy a more "socially acceptable" black suit even though all of the store's available black suits fit him too tightly. Grampa, however, insists that the suit will benefit Angus by making him even more "different."

The film also features a recurring symbolism based around an experiment Angus conducts in hopes of getting into the science school. This is introduced in Angus's science class, where he posits that a foreign element introduced into a homogeneous system will be rejected and destroyed. He puts a drop of a red substance into an environment composed solely of a blue substance, and the red element explodes in a puff of smoke. This is later directly related to Angus's own attempts to be himself in the largely homogeneous high school crowd. In one scene, an overhead shot reveals that Angus is the only person wearing red at a pep rally full of students wearing the school color (blue).

At the end of the film, Angus further explains the experiment, in how in some rare situations the red substance is not destroyed by the blue, but overcomes it and radically alters the base which is symbolized by the plum purple tuxedo Angus wears during the climax of the film.

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Alternate cut

Early in production, the film contained scenes wherein Angus's 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, we are told early in the film that Angus's dad died while he was being born.

In addition, deleted and extended scenes are integrated into the cut-for-television version of the film to make up running time.[2]

Deleted/extended scenes

  • Extended dialogue between Angus and Troy in the locker room.
  • Scene with Angus helping his grandfather move some of his stuff to April's house.
  • Scene with Angus talking with his grandfather and April at April's house. The scene also shows the grandfather's dance move "the Irish swoon" which is described to Angus earlier in the film.
  • Extended scene where Angus goes to the dancing lesson, including Angus and Troy commenting on the teachers good looks.
  • Scene with Angus and his mom eating Häagen-Dazs ice cream in the kitchen where they talk about the upcoming dance.
  • Extended scene where Angus is trying on suits.
  • Extended scene between Angus and April outside of the house after his grandfather's funeral, where April gives Angus the plum tuxedo and reveals she had set her watch to remember when it was time for grandpa's pills.

Criticism

Some consider the film as a superficial after-school special for its familiar underdog story and inherent preachiness. As such, the film scores a 20% "rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[3] The film 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. Angus straddled the fence between comedy and drama, at points to its detriment to some critics.

However, the film enjoys a cult following amongst viewers. 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."[4]

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."[5] Emanuel Levy, while giving the film a "C", conceded Angus was "played by newcomer Charles M. Talbert with a certain charm."[6] 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."[4]

Box office

Angus was released theatrically in North America on Friday, September 15, 1995 on 1,154 screens.[7] Angus debuted in eighth place amidst the crowded box office. It opened against Hackers and Spike Lee's 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.[8] 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, Angus 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.[9]

Availability

Angus 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.

In 2009, Warner Archive released the film as an official DVD-R.

Soundtrack

Angus: Music from the Motion Picture
Soundtrack to the film Angus by Various Artists
Released August 22, 1995
Recorded April-May 1995
Genre Alternative rock
Length 34:48
Label Warner Bros. Records
Professional reviews

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 the themes of the film while keeping a fast yet upbeat tone, a sharp departure from the age of grunge, which had just reached its twilight. (It should be noted that Angus' penchant for flannel and denim, as well as his defeatist persona, are concepts more closely associated with grunge.) However, several key songs are absent in the CD that was released, most notably "Fade into You" by Mazzy Star, the song that was played as Angus and Melissa danced.

Weezer offered to write two songs: One entitled "Wanda," which references the earlier version of the script, and "You Gave Your Love To Me Softly." Only the latter was used. "Am I Wrong" by Love Spit Love features the marching band from director Patrick Read Johnson's high school.

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. This song peaked at number one on the Modern Rock Billboard charts of 1995. This song 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 "Angus" 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

  1. "J.A.R. (Jason Andrew Relva)" - Green Day
  2. "Jack Names the Planets" - Ash
  3. "Enough" - Dance Hall Crashers
  4. "Kung Fu" - Ash
  5. "Back to You" - The Riverdales
  6. "Mrs. You and Me" - Smoking Popes
  7. "You Gave Your Love to Me Softly" - Weezer
  8. "Ain't That Unusual" - Goo Goo Dolls
  9. "Funny Face" - The Muffs
  10. "White Homes" - Tilt
  11. "Deep Water" - Pansy Division
  12. "Am I Wrong" - Love Spit Love

References

External links


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