TERRIBLE? or JUST TERRIBLE?: "Dream a Little Dream" dir., Marc Rocco, 1989

I would guess that the likelihood of anyone actually enjoying Dream a Little Dream -- a 1989 film that was desperately trying to keep the dream team of Corey Feldman and Corey Haim going after the success of 1987's The Lost Boys (and the...occurrence, lets say, of 1988's License to Drive) -- depends upon one's tolerance level for the so-called performance skills of the aforementioned dynamic duo.  But, acting aside, there are so many reasons to despise this movie deeply.

In the last "Terrible? or, Just Terrible?" segment, I kicked off this exercise in assessing cinema's most lowly product by reviewing The Flaming Urge, a movie I ultimately had to deem "Terrible," as it serves as a pretty hilarious camp artifact from the early 50's, and is definitely worth checking out.  But, The Flaming Urge was kind of a softball when I step back to consider the cinematic depths I've visited in the past.  From Troll 2 to Trapped in the Closet to The Thing With Two Heads (you know--the one where a racist Ray Milland gets Rosie Greer's head transplanted onto his body) I have developed a gleefully perverse relationship with the ill-conceived and poorly executed.

Rosie Greer and Ray Milland in The Thing With Two Heads
I have built up a strange tolerance over the years. And, yes, I do get off on the strange, torturous tickle of mind-numbing repetition, when done right.  Movies that play with an audience's sense of time, that manage that perfect dance with duration, intentionally or unintentionally, can be one of the most important factors when drawing the line between the "Terrible" and the "Just Terrible."  Sometimes, as in a Coleman Francis, or even the recent Indian special effects extravaganza Endhiran (2010), with it's two-and-a-half-hour-plus running time and stubborn unwillingness to leave anything on the cutting room floor, a test of patience can be exactly the thing that pushes a movie over the line from being "Just Terrible" into the delightful realm of the "Terrible."

Aishwarya Rai and Rajnikanth in Endhiran
Then there's Dream a Little Dream, a movie that put my tolerance to the test.  I was aware that "the Two Coreys" had experienced the reality show treatment recently, becoming celebrity casualties for a second time, but I wasn't aware of how bad it had gotten in 1989 with Dream a Little Dream, a movie so inept in it's execution and excruciating in it's duration that I can't imagine it would appeal to any but the hardest of hardcore Corey-ites (or, Hard-Corey-ites, if you like).  If you are one of those people, I don't want to deny you your pleasures, but let's be realistic about this:  Dream a Little Dream is a movie that dangles grotesquely off the end of a decade filled with Old-Young Body Switching comedies and some of the most inexplicable rises to fame of any decade in cinema.  Dream a Little Dream is probably the worst of the ol' "switch-a-roo" movies, considering that it doesn't even get the ridiculous simplicity of that genre quite right.  Jason Robards plays an old guy who is into some sort of mystical Tai-Chi that allows him to tap into something not unlike Dennis Quaid's abilities in Dreamscape, but his experimental exercise results in a misdirection of energy, and he ends up inside one of the most horribly coiffed skulls in movie history (Feldman).  Feldman, who is definitely the "lead" Corey in this picture, has the acting challenge of having to perform as if he had Jason Robards living in his body, but his obsession with Michael Jackson and lack of displaying any capacity for empathy as an actor keep that from happening.  His best friend Dinger, played by Haim, limps around on a real broken leg that they incorporated into the movie after Haim's mother hit him with a car.  The characters of Dream a Little Dream are seamlessly blended with the real lives of the Corey's...as when they throw in a line in the beginning about how Dinger's mother hit him with a car.  That detail comes in the first scene, and it was about halfway through that scene that I had reached my Corey limit.  1 Hour and 54 minutes later, as I watched Feldman and Robards sharing dance moves during the credits to the film's titular theme, I was feeling broken.

The Coreys
There are a number of other characters in Dream a Little Dream--too many, really--as well as a particularly bad performance by young Meredith Salenger (who would go on to hone her skills in the Bill Pullman/Bettie White giant alligator pic Lake Placid).  To unpack the film's story too much farther might trigger some mild trauma, but here goes:  Salenger plays the romantic interest of Feldman, and even though she and Feldman literally crash simultaneously into the backyard mystical experiment of Robards and his romantic interest, played by Piper Laurie, Salenger's character does not switch bodies with her elder counterpart in the movie.  I can't explain why this is, but I thought I should mention it, if only as an example of the inexplicable choices that abound in this film.  Now, with Robards inside him, Feldman finds the courage to court Salenger.  Meanwhile, Salenger's boyfriend, played by William McNamara, an actor we get to watch invent creative answers to the Acting 101 question of "What do I do with my hands?" for the duration of his scenes, comes unhinged, leading to a dramatic climax involving he and Haim that leads to excessive drinking and gun play (this is PG-13 territory, after all).  The Feldman/Salenger plot to keep Salenger awake as a way to save the fate of Robard's and Laurie's love involves Salenger being intentionally drugged by her mother (played by TV's Susan Blakely, a character who is sort of the last word in 80's rich kid Moms).  What will happen if Salenger falls asleep?  I dare you to find out how that plot line works itself out.  Double-DOG dare ya.

Meredith Salenger and Corey Feldman in Dream a Little Dream
Aside from featuring unpleasant, grating performances, editing that is seemingly unfinished, a running time that is unforgivable, and a plot that was probably smashed together from a couple of different ideas, screwing up both in the process, Dream a Little Dream is particularly "Just Terrible" because of the actors that got caught up in it along the way:  specifically, Jason Robards, Piper Laurie, and Harry Dean Stanton.  It may be true that commercial cinema commonly favors the fad of the moment over respect for great actors, but if you look back now on the legacy of the Coreys in comparison to some of the work from the three screen legends in this picture, you can't help but be especially hurt by the whole affair.

Jason Robards in Once Upon a Time in the West

Piper Laurie in Carrie

Harry Dean Stanton in Paris, Texas

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