1995, PG-13, 97 min. Directed by Peter Horton. Starring Brad Renfro, Joseph Mazzello, Annabella Sciorra, Diana Scarwid, Bruce Davison.
REVIEWED By Joey O'Bryan, Fri., April 21, 1995
In a curious fusing of Philadelphia and Stand By Me, The Cure marks the big-screen directorial debut of thirtysomething's Peter Horton. The resulting picture proves unsuccessful as an “emotional adventure” (to quote the press kit) or as a serious examination of the hardships suffered by children living with AIDS. The plot finds neighborhood bad boy Erik entering into an unlikely friendship with Dexter, the introverted boy next door who has contracted AIDS from a blood transfusion. The early scenes with the boys (especially the scene in which they initially meet while physically separated by a high fence) carry a fair amount of dramatic resonance, raising some interesting questions about how children might deal with prejudice. But the more ambitious themes on display here are quickly abandoned for a number of feel-good, male-bonding montages in which the kids play war, outrun the local bullies, and (after being inspired by a clip from John McTiernan's Medicine Man) comically search for a cure to Dexter's deadly illness. Their quest eventually sends them on their way to New Orleans where, they believe (thanks to an article in a questionable tabloid newspaper) that a scientist has discovered the cure for AIDS. Decent performances are given all around, with Sciorra's tough-cookie mom being the standout, but the wishy-washy script doesn't really give them much to do except go through the motions typical of “disease movies of the week” melodramas. There are some good, effective moments in The Cure, but far too often the film lapses into silly heart-tugging (one motif that involves the trading of shoes is especially groan-inducing) or bizarre bad taste (like the moment when little Dexter scares away two attackers by slashing his hand and threatening to sling blood on the antagonists). In the end, the movie's good intentions are rarely realized, and the nice message of this family film (Kids with AIDS are people too!) is unfortunately delivered with a slight whiff of homophobia. Then subtract another half a star for the absurdly in-your-face Butterfinger product placement, and what you've got left is a competently acted, high concept, family entertainment, coming of age, AIDS tearjerker that occasionally doubles as a candy bar commercial.