Cocktail (1988) / Drama-Romance

MPAA Rated: R for sexuality and language
Running Time: 104 min.

Cast: Tom Cruise, Bryan Brown, Elisabeth Shue, Kelly Lynch, Lisa Banes, Laurence Luckinbill, Gina Gershon, Ron Flanagan
Director: Roger Donaldson
Screenplay: Heywood Gould (based on his book)

Tom Cruise (Top Gun, Days of Thunder) stars as ex-Army soldier Brian Flanagan, who has his dreams of becoming a success in New York City shattered when he can't even find a job even in an entry-;evel position.  He settles for a part-time bartending gig while going back to school, but soon learns that there is more to the barkeep world when his mentor, Doug Coughlin (Brown, Along Came Polly), teaches him not only the tricks of the trade, but the road to potential success.  teacher and student eventually part ways, leading Brian to escape to Jamaica, closer to his dream of starting up his own bar there.  He meets and falls for a vacationing beauty, Jordan (Shue, The Karate Kid), but when a wealthy woman propositions him, Brian finds he must have to choose between his dreams of financial success and what might be the love of his lifetime.

Insipid is the first word that comes to mind when talking about this glamorized take on the life of the bartender, adapted, but nearly unidentifyably so, by Heywood Gould from his own novel (can you say, "studio meddling"?).  The best thing that one can say about this otherwise vapid film is that it looks and sounds good, with a cast of attractive actors and actresses, a killer multiplatinum-selling soundtrack (spawning #1 hits like Bobby McFerrin's "Don't Worry, Be Happy" and the Beach Boys' "Kokomo"), and some lush locale work on the beaches and waterfalls of Jamaica.  

It's a shame that they spent more time worrying about eye-candy and less time working on the superficial storyline, as the on-again, off-again romance plus the idiotic philosophizing on the bartender trade don't exactly make for intellectually-stimulating fare.  Here we have a case where the entire film is sold on one premise:  people are so enamored of Tom Cruise's smile and provocative gyrations that they'll watch just about anything in order to see plenty of both.

With shallow, self-centered characters, a glossy style, and the very bad poetry (for some reason, bar hoppers would rather hear bad poetry than drink), Cocktail is a film only worth watching to laugh at its cheesiness to entertain you.  The funniest moments come when the film takes itself seriously, which happens astonishingly often given the subject matter of pouring and scoring.  If you're looking for a good laugh of two at Tom Cruise's expense, this is one flat, watered-down concoction that, like most cocktails, is more fun to order than to actually drink.

Qwipster's rating: 

©2006 Vince Leo