Pros: Does accurately show how drug abuse affects families.
Cons: Over the top melodrama. Judd Nelson and Burt Reynolds are laughable.
Gotta love the 1980s, a decade that now seems every bit as bizarre to me as the 1970s once did. Those of us who were around in the 80s may remember that was the decade Americans declared a "war on drugs". It was the decade of Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" campaign. It was also a decade in which drug and alcohol rehabs were springing up all over the place, promising to help parents with their drug addicted kids. 1986 was the year that spawned Shattered- If Your Kid's on Drugs, a real gem of a video that, to me, looks as if it was meant to do two things: serve as a tool for parents to discuss drug abuse with their kids and perhaps serve as a vehicle for Burt Reynolds and Judd Nelson to do some community service.
The video, which runs for about an hour, begins with cheesy saxophone and electric guitar augmented synthesizer music and a shot of what appears to be a mid 80s era California subdivision. When I first saw it, I was immediately reminded of the old TV show, Knot's Landing. Burt Reynolds and Judd Nelson are riding in an old pickup truck, talking about how nice the neighborhood appears to be. I'm already wondering if these two guys would have ever been going anywhere together if it weren't dictated by some kind of legal agreement. Their match seems to be very incongruent.
The two actors pull their pickup into a parking lot as they make small talk. They stop behind a school bus and then we're introduced to what looks like a happy and successful family. Mom Eileen, Dad Mike, and little brother Mitch are taking pictures of big sister Kim (Megan Follows). She's just won some kind of academic award. Just as dad snaps the picture, another family, this one with a teenaged boy named Rick (Dermot Mulroney), walk up to congratulate them. It seems Rick has just won "Athlete of the Year". His parents, Gary and Janet Kramer introduce themselves to Kim's parents. They all take pictures and decide to have lunch together at "the club". It seems like a happy occasion until Kim gives Rick a knowning look and tells the adults that they'll join them later.
The next shot is of Judd Nelson driving the crappy pickup truck into a wooded area. He and Burt Reynolds get out of the truck. Reynolds comments that the ceremony was nice, then asks Nelson if he's ever won an award. I can tell these two guys don't want to be there.
Nelson gazes at the two families from afar and quips, "Looks like the American dream, doesn't it?"
Reynolds responds melodramatically with, "More like the American nightmare." His arms are folded across his chest, making him look like he's trying to be no nonsense.
The shot cuts to our two fine adolescent specimens sitting with some other friends in an old Volkswagen van, getting high on crack. Cheesy generic 80s style music blares in the background.
Suddenly, the shot cuts back to Nelson and Reynolds, who are now leaning against a post and rail fence. Reynolds laments that he hates to see so much potential wasted. Then Nelson reminds him how tough adolescence is. This dialog is really stilted and unbelievable, even for two experienced actors such as these.
Rick comes home to find his dad sitting at the kitchen table, drinking. He's upset because Rick and Kim stood them up at the restaurant. Suddenly, the audience starts to see cracks in the facade of the American Dream.
Meanwhile, Kim's locked in her room, getting loaded on an impressive stash of pills and pot. She goes to the kitchen all giddy and silly, wearing sunglasses inside. Kim's parents are preparing food together while Kim starts snacking on what they're trying to fix. Kim's mom comments that her daughter has bizarre eating habits and offers to fix her something worthwhile, but then Kim gets snippy and leaves in a huff. Kim's mom then comments that she could use a Valium. Her husband grabs the pill bottle and notices that it's almost empty. He quite laughably accuses her of "eating" the pills after his teenage daughter just interacted with them, obviously wasted.
The film continues with the two dads bump into each other and complain about how crazy their kids are acting and initially figuring their kids are just being kids. But then they discover Kim's overgrown credit card bill as they sip wine on the couch. The clues just keep coming and coming as Kim's parents alternately deny there's a problem and spout off 1980s era statistics of drugs and drug use.
Naturally, things have to come to a head. Rick's and Kim's families start to fight with each other. Rick gets confronted by a fellow star athlete about his drug use. He denies using drugs until the athlete comes clean about his own drug problem. Then Kim gets into a car accident and breaks her leg. The doctor at the hospital tells her parents that it's clear that she has a problem. Next thing we know Kim and Rick are in a drug rehab, getting real about their addictions.
This film is full of 80s era drug cliches. I'm not sure where this film was shown, since it's got a few dirty words in it that would not be acceptable on regular television stations, especially in the mid 80s. Maybe it was on HBO, but I was a pretty regular viewer back in the day and I don't remember it. It also doesn't seem to be high quality enough to be an HBO production. It looks as if it were released straight to video, perhaps to be shown in treatment programs. I can't imagine this video would have been appropriate for a school setting, again, because of the language in it.
For being such a short film, this video packs a lot of punch. In the course of just an hour, our characters go from being normal families, completely blind to a big problem, to families in recovery. And viewers can easily see how the parents contribute to their kids' problems with drugs. They have lax attitudes about chemicals themselves, doing a lot of smoking, drinking, and prescription drug taking at home. The video also shows how drugs can affect family relationships as the families go from being peaceful-- before they realized drugs were a problem-- to fighting all the time.
I really don't know what purpose Judd Nelson and Burt Reynolds were supposed to serve, except perhaps adding "star power" to this little production. Neither is convincing as an anti-drug advocate... especially not Burt Reynolds. I actually think their presence makes this film more of a joke than it could have been. Who the hell is Burt Reynolds to be talking to parents about denial?
This video was clearly produced on a budget. The acting is not that good. The music is cheesy. Back in the 80s, there were plenty of anti-drug movies and videos on the market that were better done than this one is. However, it may be of some value to people who like Dermot Mulroney. This film was his debut. While I think this film demonstrates over the top melodrama, it is kind of fun to watch if you were a child of the 80s. But, I do think that one viewing of this video is definitely enough.