The Outsiders: The Complete Novel

7 Feb

Curtis_Brothers_Talking

Smith’s Verdict: ****

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

I gave 1983’s “The Outsiders” a negative but affectionate review, saying that it needs more material to be a better movie. Well, fans of the movie, who were also fans of the novel it was based on, wrote many letters to the director Francis Ford Coppola and they all asked the same question as to why the film wasn’t more like the book. And now, in 2005, there is a much better version of “The Outsiders” with twenty minutes of deleted scenes. It’s called “The Outsiders: The Complete Novel” because it covers more of the original novel. It also makes the story more clear, gives room for the characters to develop, and gives the thought of why in the world didn’t Warner Bros. release this film in the first place?

I love this movie. It reminds me so much of why I love reading the book in the first place. It’s touching, powerful, and a much better film than its original cut. I am even going to give it four stars. I think it deserves that rating.

In a never-before-seen opening scene, the hero Ponyboy Curtis, a fourteen-year-old greaser who lives on the wrong side of the tracks, is jumped by the socs, a gang of rowdy rich kids from the other side of town. His older brothers and buddies come to his rescue. This is great—we are given proper introductions to all of the “greaser” characters and we get a sense of the relationship between Ponyboy (C. Thomas Howell) and his brothers Darrel and Sodapop (Patrick Swayze and Rob Lowe). With other additional footage, the characters are given room to develop into people we care about. One character in particular who given special treatment is Sodapop. His added scenes—especially one in which he breaks down at the end—remind us that Rob Lowe is a very good actor for dramatic situations, not just deadpan comic effect.

Ponyboy and his buddies—tough, mean Dallas (Matt Dillon) and scared, sensitive Johnny Cade (Ralph Macchio)—are hunting for action one night at the local drive-in. While there, Dallas tries, very rudely, to pick up a soc girl named Cherry Valance (Diane Lane). She tells him to go away and then she unexpectedly picks up Ponyboy and Johnny, knowing very well who they are (she tells them, “I’ve met people like Dallas Winston; you two don’t look mean”). Her friend Marcia is picked up by Ponyboy and Johnny’s friend Two Bit (Emilio Estevez), the jokester of the greasers who loves Mickey Mouse cartoons. But soon, there’s trouble. The girls’ boyfriends spot them with the greasers which leads to them hunting Ponyboy and Johnny, finding them alone later that night. While drunk, they come very close to drowning Ponyboy in a fountain and one of them—Cherry’s boyfriend Bob (Leif Garrett)—is murdered by Johnny. This leads to Ponyboy and Johnny being aided by Dallas to figure out what to do about this situation. They hide out in a church for a week, then they become heroes for saving children in a fire, then they return home to resolve issues with the socs.

There are more touches to this director’s cut that really make this film special. The story is better developed, the characters are more complex, and that music from the original film is gone—thank God (I hated that music in the first place). This is a much more faithful adaptation to the beloved book by S.E. Hinton.

Watching this new cut, it’s fun to see all of these actors before they made their big career moves. Matt Dillon is fantastic as Dallas, the rebel without a cause—it’s fun seeing him here and in “Tex” and “Rumble Fish” (all of which were film adaptations of S.E. Hinton novels) as this tough teenager with a lot to do and say. Ralph Macchio (yes, the Karate Kid) is very good as Johnny—he’s just that kid you want to see good things happen to, despite his murderous deed. Patrick Swayze, Rob Lowe, Diane Lane, Emilio Estevez, and Tom Cruise (yes, Tom Cruise) are all great in their roles. What really surprised me was that C. Thomas Howell, playing the narrator of the film, didn’t go on to bigger and better things like his co-stars. Howell is wonderful here—he gives a convincing, complicated performance as this nice, scared kid who is smart and thoughtful. Since this movie, he’s played pretty much the same character until his career bomb, “Soul Man,” in 1986.

“The Outsiders: The Complete Novel” is a much better film than Warner Bros. thought it to be in 1983 and I loved it.

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