Paul Cooney, in addition to being the Pink Smoke's incorrigible gentleman of leisure and all-around authority on Vanity, is also the site's resident Rae Dawn Chong expert. After his popular piece on Mark L. Lester's Commando, demands for more Chong-centric reviews came pouring in. So Mr. Cooney was commissioned for a follow-up article (possibly leading to an in-depth series) based on the filmography of Edmonton's own former Mrs. C. Thomas Howell herself. The logical choice of movie, considering Cooney's love of Breaking Away, was screenwriter Steve Tesich's OTHER cycling melodrama American Flyers. Will it lead to subsequent dissertations on such classics as Beat Street, Time Runner and The Squeeze? Could this be the Rae Dawn of yet another classy 'smoke retrospective?


The Way of Rae Part 1: American Flyers by Paul Cooney

The 80's. What a decade! We got to know our good friend crack, we wore baggy pants (when we were wearing pants at all - lol!!!) and AIDS was introduced into our lives with much fanfare. Billy Joel hadn't driven drunk into his neighbors' swimming pool yet, and I need to shoot whoever played "We Didn't Start the Fire" today cuz apparently that ditty is on my mind right now.

I digress. Bicycle movies. Who the fuck would make a movie centered around bicycles? What are we, French? Sweet 'lil baby Jesus knows Americans don't cotton to no bikes, which is why Nic Cage and Vin Diesel are huge megastars who eat beefsteak 3 times a day and have awesome comic book collections that are worth more than your life! They make car movies! No odes to Schwinns for those supertalented supertalents. Fuck no! They drive like demons in steel hulks and reach their dreams! (Speaking of Whatever happened to celluloid heroes who looked like Errol Flynn and Cary Grant? Have you ever considered how ugly Diesel and Cage are? Why are they movie stars? When is Ed Burns going to tell his agent to get him behind the wheel so he can finally have the career his face deserves! Ryan Gosling knows what's up. That's why he made Drive. Jake Gyllenhaal, are you listening? If your next script your agent hands you doesn't have you wearing leather gloves and driving stick shift, roll it up and stick it in his ass! Lol. Omg. Roffle.)

Which brings me to American Flyers. The holy triumverate of bike movies is Breaking Away, The Bicycle Thief and Quicksilver. What in sweet Christ's name is Quicksilver, you ask? Well, how does a Kevin Bacon bike messenger movie grab your nads? Sounds fucking great right? Well that's cuz it is homeslice.

"Hey Harvey - I got 10 million to burn, whaddya say we get that friggin kid who was dancin' around barns and put him on a bike?"

"Footloose? You mean that kid from Footloose?"

"Yeah. I got a script that calls for a sweet young pretty boy to pedal around New York in a rush or some shit...ass galore and plenty o' sweaty crotch close-ups...the teen girls will love it."

"Make it happen!"

American Flyers features neither Bacon nor crusty old Italian men who may or may not be pederasts, but it does feature Rae Dawn Chong, which of course makes it required viewing for any true Chongophile, of which I am. (Most sensibly of course.) That reminds me, they really should have made Quest for Fire a sitcom.  Michael J. Fox as the nerdy high school boy who discovers a naked cave woman in his tree house...he could teach her about supply side economics and she could give him prehistoric handjobs in return.  It would have made a nice lead in for Golden Girls is all I'm saying.

Lamentably American Flyers doesn't open with a nude Rae Dawn studying calculus or throwing a spear at Lance Armstrong, but instead focuses on some dude in a cowboy hat and short shorts riding his ten St. Louis! WTF! This might be the only movie I'm aware of that is set in St. Louis, and with good reason. It's St Louis! Was Topeka closed?

After being blown away by shots of the amazing St Louis skyline we are treated to (hiney alert!) an ass shot and Kevin Costner's stache. Will this movie feature a mustache ride? A tubercular Val Kilmer? Your mom? Stay tuned!

Rae Dawn finally makes an appearance and there is much rejoicing. Her hair is not the out-of-control spectacle that nearly consumed Commando, and happily she is not wearing a whole lot. Costner's bro openly ogles her and is clearly intrigued by her tawny loveliness. She saucily states that she is a delightful mix of Apache/Black/Scotch-Irish and Chinese. Well honk my hooter, what an alluring medley! I really hope the pimps of the world are paying attention. I will break out my piggy bank and pay top dollar for that amalgamation of nationalities! (Under 25 of course and with notarized verification. You may substitute any Asian country for the Chinese part and lose the Scotch if necessary, I don't want to be reminded of Rod Stewart while I indulge myself.)

Again I digress. Jennifer Grey makes an appearance and is quickly brought to tears, an event that causes me to feel much merriment. She was such a bitch to Ferris!

We learn that Rae Dawn was once married to a cyclist nicknamed "The Cannibal" and that his teammate and best friend Costner stole her away! What a Huffy slut! Why are you banging every jabroni who comes down the bike trail? Try hanging around Le Mans, precious! Keep that head down but raise those standards!

There is some sort of plot about the brothers bonding and brain disease and mommy's a bitch but it doesn't really matter cuz who really gives a shit? I sure fucking don't. Anyhoo...

Alexandra Paul! Amazing appearance from one of the lesser Baywatch lights. I mean who would have believed someone besides that drunken idiot Hasselhoff would give her a job? Her boobies are as petite as ever and she is playing a wayward hippie of some sort who eschews granola and longs for a Big Mac. She also hitchhikes, gives Rae Dawn the finger, and doesn't show Costner's mustache the proper respect. Big mistake Alex baby! You just made my list!

Alexandra, Rae Dawn, Costner, Costner's mustache and charmless brother hop in the van for a road trip, and they stop along the way to go camping. Did you know I've never been camping? It's true! That's a fun fact so write it down in the dossier you have of me. Though I always wanted to go camping apparently my scout leader liked sleepovers in his basement apartment just fine and so I never experienced the great outdoors. He said the tent in his pants was good enough for me. Wakka wakka wakka! I couldn't resist.

I digress yet again. The dad from Good Times shows up with his jolly, chubby, jheri-curled son. Adorbs! Robert Townshend gets a scene or two to blaze with Meteor Man-like intensity but is quickly upstaged by Costner's ass, which smolders hotter than the brightest star and makes a nice compliment to his mustache. So far Costner's mustache is stealing every scene it's in but now it has some competition. Game on, ass!

Speaking of screen presence, this Cannibal character reminds me of Viking from Bad Boys and I'm genuinely concerned for Rae Dawn, such is his ferocity. Thankfully she is wearing very cute sandals and I am somewhat comforted.

Somebody utters the line, "Well I'll be a fig newton." Wowsers. There's a phrase you don't hear as often as you'd like! In reply Costner's mustache wrinkles with mirth and it's probably the finest acting in the movie up to that point.

Sweet holy shit! Soviets!  Maybe the 80's weren't so innocent after all! Not only are we being given copious male asshots and a furtive look or two at what passes for boobs in Alexandra Paul's world, but suddenly Costner's mustache has to deal with the red menace!

The audience has barely had a chance to take in this new villain when Eddy Merckx makes a cameo. Eddy Fucking Merckx. (Who the fuck is Eddy Merckx?) Seriously what the hell was going on in La La land that somebody financed a bicycle movie and thought, "Hey! We can get the premier Belgian cyclist of the 70's to do a cameo! That'll put some fannies in the seats!"

Costner's mustache glares disapprovingly at the Belgian. Mayonnaise on french fries? Do you know how hard that is to get out of a lush stache? I'm keeping tabs on you Merckx!

The Soviet cyclist attempts to counter the power of Costner's mustache by sporting a rather fantastic beard which, although splendid looking, clearly flouts the principles of aerodynamics. Way to fall into Costner's mustache trap! Have the Soviets no concept of wind resistance? No wonder they lost the Cold War! Thanks, Nazi scientists!

Costner's mustache is not the only one who is wary of the big Russian. The Cannibal is incensed by the Soviet cyclist, whom he did not get to beat at the 80's Olympics cuz of government bureaucrats. When a reporter sasses him with the memory he grimaces and thunders at her, "You wouldn't know a fact if it banged you all night!"

(Is it too late to center the movie around this guy?  He seems to be the only actor involved with a personality.)

Alexandra Paul, in desperate attempt to steal screen time away from Costner's mustache, has sex with her dull cyclist boytoy the night before the big race. Pinko slut! Do you want to drain his energy before the big race? I'm very upset by her treachery, but then Rae Dawn perks me right up by wearing a tank top that shows a wee hint of nipple. Bravo! What a humanitarian!

There is some more bicycle racing, which is about as exciting as you think it is, and then Costner suffers from a nosebleed, which means:

A. His mustache is being sullied.

B. He's gonna die soon.

Someone quips, "You can't be sick, you've got a mustache!" Line of the decade?

It's a harrowing scene cuz unfortunately for everyone who's fallen in love with Costner's mustache it appears that it needs to be attached to Costner in order to survive and flourish, which means his brain disease might be sad after all.

Costner himself seems to be pretty broken up about the prospect of dying imminently and laments that he came from a "family of losers." From what I've seen he's right. He is from St. Louis after all. Zing! Suck it, midwest!

With the mustache relegated to a supporting role, the film is in danger of losing most of its charisma, but thankfully the final bike race features a very compelling scene in which The Cannibal attempts to murder the bland brother. It's kind of fascinating cuz although he's been a bit of a jerk up to this point I did not peg him as a full-fledged psychopath. As the two bikes skirt the edge of a cliff The Cannibal veers left and throws his weight against Blandy, edging him ever closer to the precipice and his doom! Ummm is he really gonna kill this guy?

Alas no, Blandy fights off The Cannibal and streaks away, onward to victory! I think we're supposed to cheer this.

Moments later The Cannibal finishes and gives Blandy a grudging congratulations. No mention is made of the murder attempt nor is any grudge held. That's racing! Costner totters into frame with his mustache and gives bro a huggy poo and then their rather unattractive mom shows up.

Still stunned that no one is making a big deal at how The Cannibal tried to kill that dude I'm left to ponder the many questions this thought provoking film engendered:

Has Costner made out his will?  If so, who is he leaving his mustache to?  Will the movie end with Rae Dawn shooting a rocket launcher?

Just what will Rae Dawn do when Costner does drop dead? Karate instructor? Stewardess? Will she finally get her pilot's license?

All in all it was a pleasant little film, kind of like what I imagine Fandango is, though I've never seen that.

I like to think that Costner's mustache was shaved and donated to a little Asian boy, who used it to impress all the girls in his prefecture, and that if you saw that mustache today, it would be glistening with a proud sheen and smelling of fresh fish.

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