Director – Richard Schenkman (Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies, The Man from Earth)
Starring – Jon Cryer (Pretty in Pink, Hot Shots!), Rick Stear (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Warrior Class), Rafael Baez (New York Undercover, Shanghai Noon)
Release Date – 1998
Rating – 3/5
Blu Release – 3.5/5
I tend to tell people I’m a product of the 80s but in actuality I grew up in the 90s. I was born in the mid 80s and over the years I’ve been pretty obsessed with that decade but I did my growing up in the 90s. I often rented films from the 80s or early 90s but movies and shows from the time was always playing on the television. In middle school I started my love for horror but I did find an interest in the 90s dramatic feel good films like Forrest Gump, Michael, Powder, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? and Phenomenon.
Most horror fans scoff at the idea of liking films like these but I thoroughly enjoy them and often give them a spin when I find myself in a rut. Sometime ago MVD released the 1998 dramedy Went to Coney Island on a Mission from God…Be Back by Five on blu as part of their MVD Rewind Collection. This was a new one on me and I couldn’t wait to check it out. Thanks MVD for sending this one over.
**Spoiler Alert**The film follows two lifelong friends, Daniel (Cryer) and Stan (Stear), who hear that their friend Richie (Baez) had a mental breakdown following the death of his kid sister and is living under the boardwalk at Coney Island. They leave their jobs for the day under the guise that Danie’s grandmother has died and go to Coney Island in hopes of finding their old friend. Along the way they reminisce about the fun times they had as kids, how they met each other, when they started drifting apart, and how adulthood is a struggle. When they are not reminiscing about old times they are meeting the different people that make up the Coney Island crowd during the off season.**Spoiler Alert**
I was an absolute cinephile in the 90s. The later part of the decade saw my focus switch to horror but I was still very conscience to other genres. With that being said, Went to Coney Island is a film I had never heard of until the MVD announcement. I rushed to watch the trailer which is something I rarely do before reviewing a movie. It looked like a fun late 90s drama with some light humor tossed in and it was for the most part.
The acting in this one is the highlight of the film. Cryer and Stear are absolutely fantastic together. Their chemistry on screen is amazing and their characters really hit the viewer hard. We all know someone like one of these two characters or we are one of the two. They contrast perfectly and give the film a nice different look than most cookie cutter flicks of the time. The supporting cast is fantastic as well. The characters may not be as well written but they do a great job in the scenes.
The story for this one struggles at times but works in the end. The movie sales itself as a dramatic comedy but the movie never really fully explores either. The comedy, when we do get it, is far from funny. In fact, there was a few times that the jokes almost felt like they were added last minute with no thought as to how they would play out in the scene. Also, the drama just does not feel all that dramatic. You watch the characters go on their journey but you never get that drama feeling like many of the other films from that time. The story is very compelling but has difficulty determining what genre it belongs to.
Finally, this one has no practical effects for horror hounds. It does have a bleak backdrop of the Coney Island boardwalk in the winter but that is as far as you can go with that. Overall, Went to Coney Island on a Mission from God…Be Back by Five is a fantastic watch but don’t expect a film that will leave you feeling fulfilled. The story is solid for what it is and the cast is amazing but I don’t see myself revisiting this one. You can check the film out now on blu from MVD.
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of the main feature from a frame-by-frame digital restoration from original 35mm film elements
5.1 Surround Audio (Uncompressed PCM) and 2.0 Stereo
NEW Introduction from director Richard Schenkman and Jon Cryer (HD)
Audio commentary from director Richard Schenkman and Jon Cryer
”Went to Coney Island… To Make a Movie” Behind the scenes featurette (18:36, SD)
”The Producer” Comedy short film directed by Richard Schenkman (3:00, SD)
Original Theatrical Trailer (SD)