Destiny Turns on The Radio (1995) If Only I Would Turn Off the Movie.
There are many reasons that I don't normally walk out of a movie. First off, I am all kinds of cheap. So if I spring for a movie ticket, chances are good that I'm going to stay. Secondly, I can generally find something to focus on with any film that will get me through a bad one. Some actor, set designer, or a cinematographer will do something to keep involved. Lastly, there is generally a specific reason I make the trip to the Multiplex. It may be to review a film, tag along with a friend to see something I don't necessarily find to be my cup of tea, or because it has an actor I like in it, but there is always a reason. That being said, I have walked out of one film in my 36 years. Today, I'm going to relive those painful memories as I watch the film that drove me down aisle. So anchors away and fate be damned as Destiny Turns on the Radio for the second time in my life. I don't know what karmic debt I am repaying, but I should be even after one and half lifetime viewings of today's "classic".
Destiny comes in the form of Quentin Tarantino, because the physical manifestation of immovable fate would be the jumpy director of Pulp Fiction, a film which won the Pal D’Or at Cannes only two days after Quentin signed onto play Mr. Destiny. One can only wonder what a difference a few days would have made in both Quentin’s screen life and my own for having to watch this dreadful mess not once, but twice. Well, Johnny Destiny comes barreling though the desert outside of Las Vegas in his 1969 Plymouth Roadrunner (What? A vintage ride, I’m shocked. Shocked, I tell you!), and scoops up Julian (Dylan Mc Dermott) off the side of the road where the escaped convict is dieing of thirst. Julian is on his way back to Sin City in pursuit of his lost cash and his lost love, Nancy Travis as Lucille. Johnny drops Julian off at a seedy motel where we’re introduced to Julian’s pal Thoreau (James LeGros), who is less of a pond watcher like Henry David than an empty pool studier. He’s hunting for Johnny who rose up naked from the pool during an electrical storm. To say seeing Tarantino in the implied buff is a sight I never needed burned into my corneas. It was not long after this advent that I checked out the first time in the theater.
So what didn’t I get to see in the first viewing? Generally, more of the same. Heavy handed line readings of a script loaded with cliché symbolism that spoon feeds the audience top the bill, and I have more to say about the source of that later. First I want to talk about the one shining glimmer of goodness in Destiny Turns on the Radio, and some other fairly mediocre shit. Anyhow, on with the good news for David Cross. While many of the actors in attendance, with the exception of Jim Belushi, could count this as their worst film, I have to congratulate Mr. Cross for being in both Chipmunk movies and therefore making DTotR not nearly the worst thing he’s ever done. Here’s the real sad part. He’s the best thing in this terrible movie. His character, an agent with dreams of turning Nancy Travis’ Lucille into a big star (with the help of a talent scout called…drum roll, please…. Vinnie Vidivici, sigh.), I could easily see appearing on his sketch show, Mr. Show, which made its debut the same year. Also, I should mention, you get Bobcat Goldthwait, not doing his Bobcat shtick, bit looking a whole lot like Louie C. K. does now, which is kind of unnerving.
I could go on and on about how bad the acting is in the film (I could write a novel about how bad McDermott is on his own), but on the whole, there’s a decent caliber of actors in the film and on average there should have been some better performances. So I have to look to the script for many of the flaws with the film as a whole. Destiny Turns on the Radio was penned by the writing team of Robert Ramsey and Matthew Stone. If those names don’t ring a bell, let me tell you a bit about their credits after this scion of American cinema. How about Life with Eddie Murphy and Martin Laurence are on a chain gang? Hilarious! Big Trouble? Yeah, I don’t remember it either probably because it starred Tim Allen, but then there’s Intolerable Cruelty. You know what’s really cruel? Whatever Ramsey and Stone had on the Coen brothers to get them to make that film. That brings us to Man of the House where Tommy Lee Jones moved in with Cheerleaders because that’s everyone’s fantasy, and finally, Soul Men, the film that killed Bernie Mac, and thankfully the careers of Ramsey and Stone as they blessedly haven’t worked since.
As for director Jack Baran, most known as the producer of Barfly, Great Balls of Fire!, and Single White Female, I’m giving him a pass. He went back to producing movies and doing some work as an Assistant Director, but he never helmed another picture. To someone, maybe Baran, maybe Tarantino, maybes Destiny, Destiny Turns on the Radio must have seemed like a good idea at the time. So the question here is, was it a good idea for me this time around. If you haven’t guessed, I still found it to be an utter misery to watch, and I had to down several caffeinated beverages as well as hooking myself up to those Clockwork Orange eye thingies to keep my attention on the screen. (And I still think I have a mental block on certain events in the all too long 2 hour plus narrative.) Here's the thing, folks. I wanted to walk out of my own house. I wanted to take a train out of the state. I wanted to, at the very least; make it my personal vendetta to discourage as many people as possible to avoid Destiny Turns on the Radio like it has a viral, airborne, incurable form of ass cancer. So yeah, I didn’t like it this time around very much either. Destiny might turn on the Radio, but hell, who uses a radio these days? Thankfully, I could just shut off my VCR (Hell, who uses VCRs these days?), but the tape back in its case, and bury it deep underground where at least that copy will never bother anyone ever again.