Some flick 1989’s Dream a Little Dream is. Vestron Video Collector's Series’ new Blu-ray release contains cover art that makes it look like the ultimate ‘80s movie. It’s got that dreamlike glow that nearly summons the sounds of Limahl’s “Never Ending Story” with a pinch of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.” So, of course, you have the two Coreys and a pretty young woman at the center as well as a compelling body-swap story within. But after 30-plus years, is this a slice of nostalgic, teen-infused cheddar, or is it a cool concept with no narrative compass? Eh, it tips a little more toward the latter. For Fans Only!
Talking about Marc Rocco’s fantastical rom-com is more fascinating than the actual cinematic experience is. It’s as if the filmmakers took a short story and filled it out with all the typical ‘80s movie beats. It’s chock full of teen angst, dude-bro energy, a cruise-worthy soundtrack, dance numbers, sad and happy montages, and an outsider chasing after the popular girl at school. It’s a greatest hits track without an organic assembly. This very well could be one of the most oddly edited movies of all time. Montages happen before we even get to know the characters. Some cuts are just thrown in without any thought behind them. Maybe it just looked cool...? I don’t know, but it feels like a two-hour-long trailer.
The story is there, though. Sure, the body swap concept is a little tired at this point, but it’s not a Hot Chick approach where the boy’s soul jumps into the body of a girl’s and vice versa. Dream a Little Dream involves an elderly couple (Jason Robards and Piper Laurie) who want to have more time together during their twilight years. Super sweet, right? They enjoy meals together at their favorite restaurant, ordering the usual and reflecting on their youth. However, Robards’s character, Coleman Ettinger, is a deep intellectual fascinated by dream psychology. He discovers this meditation process that allows his soul to jump into someone else's body. So, when he convinces his spouse to partake in his transcendental, Tai chi-esque experiment, they land in the bodies of a teen boy and girl (who keep cutting through the Ettingers’ yard to get to and from school).
The boy is Corey Feldman’s Bobby Keller, a Michael Jackson-wannabe who’s trying to navigate his time before graduation amid a troubled home life. His parents (Alex Rocco and Victoria Jackson) hardly pay attention to him and barely support him despite a roof over his head. Thankfully, Bobby has his best bud, Dinger (Corey Haim), to keep his spirits up.
The girl is Meredith Salenger’s Lainie Diamond. She’s a dancer with a different kind of troubled home life. Her mother (Susan Blakely) wants Lainie to pretty much set aside any creative ambitions and settle down with a nice, rich boy – a.k.a. Joel (William McNamara), a world-class ass-hat.
Once the magical swap happens, Coleman uses his newly found youth to spend more time with his wife, Gena. The only problem is that Gena wasn’t as invested in the body-swap process as Coleman. As a result, Coleman knows that Gena is within Lainie now, but Gena doesn’t know that she is Lainie. She’s a bit of a lost soul who’s driving on autopilot through the confusing clouds of adolescence. Gena recognizes emotional connections to familiar things, such as the restaurant she and Coleman would go to, but she doesn’t know why they’re significant.
There are all kinds of intriguing nuggets to chew on in Dream a Little Dream, such as the disconnect between generations and the muddy waters of parent-child relationships. But the most damaging issue is that the film has no comprehensible direction. You’ll too often scratch your head over logical and narrative blunders — like, are the elderly couple's bodies just asleep in their rooms during all of this? How hasn't anyone checked on the couple to see if they're OK?
The individual pieces don’t snap into place, and it’s extremely frustrating because there’s so much potential to be something worthwhile. Fortunately, a wonderful moment with the late-and-great Harry Dean Stanton (as one of Coleman's neighbors) makes up for some lost ground.
Whether it was too many creative cooks in the kitchen or an unconfident director at the helm (or because the Feldman cut hasn’t been seen yet – more on that below), it’s a mess so caught up in pleasing everyone that it forgets how to handle its characters in any form that feels earthbound.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
The now-available Vestron Video disc (spine title No. 25) is enveloped by a cardboard slipcover (sporting the aforementioned design). What's humorous is on the backcover are three movie stills; however, only one of them (the center photo) is actually from Dream a Little Dream. The other two stills are from other movies. Whoops! And unfortunately, the hard plastic blue case contains no reversible cover art. But the bonus is that the release includes a Digital HD copy that’s redeemable through Lionsgate.com.
The Blu-ray is presented with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1:78:1. This is about as generic as a restoration gets. Depending on the focus of the camera, most scenes are super soft, especially during the opening exchange between the two Coreys. Many details get lost in the darkness, as if we’re watching a recording of the playback monitor instead of a crisp transfer. Some shots even have different color grades than others, most notably early on when the Ettingers are eating lunch with Harry Dean Stanton’s character. (Obviously, the dream sequences are going for a blue tint, which is an odd choice.)
On the soundscape side, Dream a Little Dream is a little more dreamy. It has a pleasant-sounding DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track. Dialogue can be clearly heard without throwing on the subtitles, and you don’t have to turn up and down the volume too much when the rad needle drops happen. (Sidebar: I’m pretty sure the creators of Tommy Boy loved this soundtrack and used two or three songs featured here more famously in their soundtrack.)
Out of the two interviews and a film historian’s audio commentary, the one bonus feature most worth your time is the new interview with Corey Feldman. Personally, I find Feldman to be one of the most interesting people on the planet. He’s such an anomaly but super well-spoken. In his nearly 30-minute interview, Feldman talks about his Michael Jackson getup and how he found his character’s jacket the day he showed up to the shoot. In addition, he shares a fascinating story about how Corey Haim’s part originally went to Feldman’s other bestie, Jason Price. But Price ultimately lost the role when Haim dropped by the set with his girlfriend, Lala Sloatman (who’s also in the movie).
But arguably, the best section of Feldman’s discussion is when he talks about how the original cut of Dream a Little Dream is about three hours long. But the studio wanted to market the movie to a MTV audience. So, many cuts had to be made, and the soundtrack had to smooth over inconsistencies and seemingly abandoned scenes. Perhaps these cut scenes would have produced a better product (even though I cannot imagine watching a three-hour cut of this). It’s still a dream of Feldman’s to recreate this cut with the help of director Marc Rocco’s wife. (Rocco passed away over a decade ago, but his wife still has all his notebooks about the original assembly.)
There was a time when it seemed like Vestron Video put more effort into its releases. Now it’s about getting a cult movie out as cheaply as possible. So, more often than not now, it’s a $12-$15 mediocre film with cool artwork, and that’s about it. So, if you’re good with that or already have the other Vestron titles in your collection, then by all means. Otherwise, you’ll sleep better without spending your time or money on Dream a Little Dream. For Fans Only!