MOVING TARGET (1988)

TMG Scale 7.0
Starring Jason Bateman, Tom Skerritt, Robert Downey, Sr. (yes, senior), Richard Dysart

This film is really a fun, Friday night date film. I bet you never heard of it. It featured a very young and talented Jason Bateman. TMG usually does not feature or comment on made for TV movies, but I had to make this exception the week Bateman stars in 2011’s Horrible Bosses. You can watch this film on instant play,  Netflix tonight.

This is a thriller, but admittedly, a bit tame by today’s standards. It does have a very cool plot that teens of any age can relate to.  Bateman is 17 year old Toby Kellogg with a summer garage band. His folks are well to do suburbanites in Los Angeles with two other kids and a family dog named “Comehere”. [Funny tidbit in the film]  Dad insists on sending Toby off to music summer camp for 5 weeks in Northern Michigan. [TMG is glad he never had to do this but recalls his high school girlfriend running off to Traverse City, Michigan and all the heartache that caused!)  After four weeks of violins and snooty camp instructors, Toby has enough and sneaks back to LA.

When he returns home, his family home is cleaned out and empty. The family is all gone without a trace.  A friend is misidentified as Toby at a local beer bash and ends up dead, courtesy of a mob hitman. TV reports reveal his Dad’s (Skerritt) financial company has gone under and the company is under investigation for money laundering. What is poor Toby to do?Well, for starters, run like hell!  The acting is quite good and the writing is not corny. Toby has to figure out who the good guys and the bad guys are and stay alive.

There are two gems in this movie. It is 1987, the kids, the houses look relatively modern. The funny thing is while Toby is on the run, he has to constantly stop to borrow a quarter and use a pay phone to call the police, to call his girlfriend or try to reach his parents.  It is kind of funny and goofy by today’s standards with everyone having a cell phone. Phone booths played huge roles in movies until the late 1980’s. Now, cell phones play major roles in almost every movie. Look for them. How would the scene or even the plot play out without a cell phone or computer in a film today?

The other gem is the concept of scenario fulfillment—one of TMG favorite topics. Military guys know what I mean. I always accuse my wife and assistant of falling prey to scenario fulfillment.  Toby determines that since the television reports that his Dad’s company is tied to money laundering, his family disappeared overnight after sending him off to summer camp, they must have wanted to get rid of him. They left no forwarding phone or address and have not tried to contact him. What other scenario makes sense? It must be the case right? Not so quick. Despite appearances, there are often other explanations, but they are hard to see if you only imagine one possible scenario being fulfilled. Police and the military have to be careful of this dangerous behavioral phenomena.  So do wives. Husband shows up late from work. He is woozy. He smells of alcohol and has lipstick on his face. His shirt is untucked. He failed to call home.  He must have been fooling around, right?  If you imagine that scenario you will be mentally blocked from considering other possibilities. Maybe he was in a car accident, his phone was smashed and he tried to revive the other drunk driver with mouth to mouth? Your reaction will be largely based upon which scenario you buy into and your response then all follows that course. Not  enough movies play on this concept and cool plots can result.

 

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