Country superstar George Strait is so laid-back he barely registers onscreen in PURE COUNTRY, an unabashedly corny by-the-numbers drama.
Strait certainly doesn't have to stretch much to play singing star Dusty Wyatt Chandler who drops out of his big-star life to rediscover his roots. Under the influence of his longtime manager Lula Rodgers (Lesley Ann Warren), Dusty has watched his downhome country show gradually swell into a
bloated spectacular of smoke, sparks and explosions. When he simply stops singing in the middle of his big finale and the audience doesn't seem to notice, Dusty decides enough is enough. Telling his drummer and best pal Earl Blackstock (erstwhile musician John Doe, one of the founding members of
X, the seminal LA punk band) that he's "taking a walk," he winds up "walking" all the way back to his home town, where he touches base with his spry, slightly daft grandmother (Molly McClure) and falls in love with spunky tomboy Harley Tucker (Isabel Glasser), who's grittily determined to save the
family ranch by winning a big barrel-race rodeo competition in Las Vegas.
Stuck without her star at the next gig, Lula puts her no-account gigolo boyfriend into Dusty's clothes and has him lip-synch his way through the show, causing an irritated Earl to turn in his resignation. Earl tracks down Dusty, closely followed by Lula, who hopes to round up Dusty in time for his
next big show--in Las Vegas, of course. To further her ends, and create some very minor plot complications, Lula puts a crimp into Dusty's budding romance by telling Harley that she and Dusty are already married. Dusty returns, for the sake of the guys in the band and on the condition that Lula
drop the special effects from the show, reschedule the missed gigs and patch things up with Harley. Harley wins her barrel race and is whisked, via limo, to Dusty's gig for a romantic reconciliation.
Everything that happens in PURE COUNTRY is preordained from its first few frames, so much so that director Christopher Cain tends to skip through many of the obligatory scenes, employing a sort of directorial shorthand that sometimes seems more like sleight-of-hand to plug the glaring holes in Rex
McGee's screenplay. Granted, Strait's audience would not likely turn out to see the star battle terrorists or have a dangerous R-rated love affair with Sharon Stone. But it seems like something more than an oversight to bring Dusty back to his old honky-tonk, "where it all started," without having
him jump up onstage and play a few numbers. In fact, this missed opportunity only serves to underscore the film's most unlikely notion, that Dusty could return to his home town and old honky tonk without being recognized by anyone, which would be something like Bruce Springsteen stopping off at
the Stone Pony for a quick beer without turning a head.
If anything, PURE COUNTRY could have used more music and less scenario, given the shaky screenplay and Strait's somnambulent screen presence when he's doing anything but singing. To compensate, Cain turns up the volume--way up--on Warren, introducing her as a steamy vision in shrink-wrapped red
leather that makes the most of her magnificent legs and cleavage. Glasser's strident spunkiness is no match for someone who could set a rock's hormones ablaze by just showing up and who here makes selling out seem the only reasonable alternative.
Unfortunately, Warren's (VICTOR/VICTORIA, CHOOSE ME) performance is not among her best due to a character so sketchy it's not even clear whether she works for Dusty or vice versa. Instead, they just seem to have some deep and unspoken bond that reduces Dusty to cantankerousness and Lula to
facial-twitching lunacy, the latter thanks to monstrous, merciless closeups that make Warren look as though her head were going to explode at any second. More likely, she's holding back the urge to scream, "Wake up!" at her co-star. Even with Warren's presence, PURE COUNTRY is still a pretty dull
row to hoe. Without her, it would have been a cinematic sedative, tickets available only by prescription. (Mild adult situations and violence.)
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1992
- Rating: PG
- Review: Country superstar George Strait is so laid-back he barely registers onscreen in PURE COUNTRY, an unabashedly corny by-the-numbers drama. Strait certainly doesn't have to stretch much to play singing star Dusty Wyatt Chandler who drops out of his big-star… (more)