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The Dream Machine Reviews

Featuring only the wispiest of plots, THE DREAM MACHINE is mildly diverting escapism for the teen trade. Unless you drool over Porsches and can still remember making a dunce of yourself over a stuck-up coed, this film will prove irrelevant to your life-experience. Clearly a good-hearted average-Joe kind of kid, Barry Davis (Corey Haim) helps out his parents while visiting home and dreams of scrounging up the wheels he needs to impress a snooty girl at his college. While doing a favor for his vacationing parents, Jean and Claude Davis (Suzanne Kent and James MacKrell), Barry impresses a wealthy woman whose piano he's tuning. Sympathizing with Margo Chamberlain (Susan Seaforth Hayes) about her philandering husband's two-timing, Barry is amazed when the woman insists that he accept her straying husband's beloved car as a gift. Barry is stunned. But what he and Margo don't realize is that Mr. Chamberlain (Jeremy Slate) has already been murdered by her son-in-law Lance (Randall England) and stuffed into the trunk of the aforementioned Porsche. Tooling around in his new toy, Barry is oblivious to the trouble brewing. When he squires his dream-babe Robin (Brittney Lewis) around and they are car-chased, he assumes it's his frat brothers engaging in a prank as part of rush week. Just as one of Lance's stooges is about to take back the car on a trumped-up pretext, Barry and his best friend Meese (Evan Richards) discover that Mrs. Chamberlain can't be asking for the return of her car--she's dead. Like unwanted guests, dead bodies tend to stink after a few days, and Barry eventually realizes there is a stiff in his car trunk. When Chamberlain's body then disappears, Meese tells him it's another frat prank. Yet Barry is determined to solve the mystery because he's already discovered and removed evidence that incriminates Lance, whose embezzling had been discovered by Mr. Chamberlain. Not unexpectedly, Lance turns up to kill Barry and destroy any clues implicating him. In the nick of time, as Lance zeros in on Barry at his parents' home, Meese calls the police. Barry manages to keep Lance at bay long enough for the cops to rescue him--just as his befuddled parents return with a lot of questions. The deep-rooted philosophical question that THE DREAM MACHINE poses is "How much would you go through to keep a free Porsche?" Answers will vary. What grates on the nerves while viewing this genial-enough farce is not how lame the plot is but that the storyline is drawn out with so little inventiveness. With barely enough material for a short film, the filmmakers have to concentrate endlessly on the killer's bungling and then compound that tedium by prolonging Barry's dream date, which stops the movie cold. To have succeeded fully, THE DREAM MACHINE needed to be both comic and suspenseful. Thrills are diluted by padded-out car chases, and simple plot developments (the college football game to which Barry takes Robin) take up too much screen time. In place of fleshing out the characters, all of the film's centrifugal force is geared to postponing Barry's discovery of the body in the trunk of the car. As the leading man, Corey Haim (LUCAS, THE LOST BOYS) exudes enough personality to drive this low-octane vehicle as if it were powered by finer fuel. Flanked by a capable supporting cast, Haim supplies the zip that the writing lacks. As flimsy as this farce is, it is often well served by director Lyman Dayton, who nudges the screenplay along and manages nicely with staging several key scenes colorfully, including the killers' silent stalking of Barry after he discovers the body in a closet and Barry's sensitively played encounter with Mrs. Chamberlain. If only the screenwriter had been encouraged to punch up the suspense, not reveal the killer's identity or motives so early, and not pad out the collegiate scenes, THE DREAM MACHINE might have risen above mediocrity. (Violence, profanity.)