Dancer, Texas Pop. 81

There's a pretty good, or at least effective, drinking game to be derived from Dancer, Texas Pop. 81, a sweet-natured but ridiculously simplistic and drainwater dull comedy set in the eponymous Texas small town. In Dancer, four young men prepare to honor a "solemn vow"—a phrase they repeat with a frequency sure to satisfy even the most hardened "Hi, Bob" player—they pledged to each other as children: to leave Dancer on the first bus to L.A. after graduating from high school. Over the course of the weekend prior to their scheduled departure, each develops second thoughts about leaving Dancer and abandoning his busy life sitting in front of the town gas station every day at sunset. So little happens in Dancer, Texas, and so little that's not predictable from the first scene, that the elements that do stand out do so like a whirling dervish at a Baptist tent meeting. There's Ethan Embry's portrayal of a misfit named Squirrel, for instance, less a performance than a collection of carefully practiced tics and twitches. Even more annoying is Ashley Johnson, who slips in and out of a Southern accent with frightening unpredictability in her portrayal of a self-assured hometown girl. Johnson seems to strive to become a second-rate Candace Cameron, so it's appropriate that she would appear in a film that doesn't seem to harbor any aspirations greater than being a third-rate Diner or American Graffiti. If any place as idyllic as Dancer did exist, anyone would be foolish to leave it, but viewers of the film will be equally foolish if they can't spot which stock characters will hightail it out of town by the film's end pretty much from the its beginning.

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