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Film: Angus
A 1995 coming-of-age teen movie based on Chris Crutcher's short story "A Brief Moment in the Life of Angus Bethune", starring Charlie Talbert and a young James Van Der Beek in their first film roles. Talbert stars as Angus Bethune, who in his own words is "a fat kid who's good at science and fair at football." He's also got a vicious rivalry with pretty-boy Jerk Jock Rick Sanford (Van Der Beek), who decides to play a cruel prank on Angus by rigging an election that nominates Angus as the Winter Ball King opposite Rick's girlfriend, Melissa LeFevre (Ariana Richards). On one hand, Angus knows he's being set up for humiliation and doesn't want to play along, but on the other hand, he's had a crush on the (in his mind) unattainable Melissa for years, leaving him unsure of what to do. Helping him along are his geeky best friend Troy (Chris Owen), his loving and slightly unorthodox mom (Kathy Bates) and his equally loving and much less orthodox grandpa, Ivan (George C. Scott).

Much like the similar movie Lucas, this film is one of those extremely rare teen movies starring an awkward social outcast who's not portrayed as an object of ridicule for the audience, and like Lucas, the protagonist pursues much more noble and sympathetic ends than the stock teen-flick goal of simply "getting laid." Roger Ebert loved the film for precisely these reasons.

The movie was officially unavailable on DVD for a long time, but can now be purchased as a made-to-order DVD from Warner Bros.

This film provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Expansion: The source material was a short story, so obviously there's a lot of this going on, although it stays true to the original premise.
  • Arc Words: "I'm still here!"
    • And "Screw 'em" is used to great effect several times.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: "So which is it, Rick: are you normal, or are you just one of us?"
  • Bully Hunter: Deconstructed. Angus is perfectly capable of taking on Rick mano-a-mano (he pretty much spent his early childhood breaking Rick's nose at least once a grade). However, that's not going to help his immediate situation. It never really did.
  • Character Title
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Grandpa's fiancee April is a good-hearted but somewhat odd bird, and not just because she wants to marry a man thirty years her senior.
  • Dawson Casting: Literally, in the case of James Van Der Beek playing Rick Sanford. As for the other main characters, only Chris Owen (Troy) and Arianna Richards (Melissa) could pass for high school freshmen.
  • Demoted to Extra: Several scenes with Grandpa's fiance April were left on the cutting room floor (they're usually restored in cable TV airings); in the theatrical cut, we don't meet her until the day of their wedding.
  • Determinator: Discussed by Angus' grandpa: Superman is not brave, because he is invincible, and you can't be brave when you're invincible. But it's the people who are destructible and know it, and keep on going, who are truly brave.
  • Disappeared Dad: Angus's father had a heart attack while Angus' mom was in labor. This was changed from the original short story where Angus' parents were alive, but both were gay.
    • The change was most likely done to avoid the Fridge Logic of why two people of Incompatible Orientation would both marry and produce a kid together, although his mom still has a rather butch streak in the movie (she's a truck driver with the CB handle "Bruiser").
      • Word of God states that this was done so that the fact of his parents' homosexuality could not be construed as a principal reason Angus is tormented by his peers. (A line still exists in the film where Meg refers to the magnet school Angus is applying for as "somewhere he can go where he won't have to account for who his parents are".)
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Rick's toadies both found the final prank funny, but they draw the line and try to stop him when he loses it and physically attacks Angus. They also both applaud "The Reason You Suck" Speech Angus gives to Rick right afterwards.
    • Much to Rick's anger, they also applaud Angus after he shrugs off the prank and has a less than embarrassing slow dance with Melissa.
  • The Freelance Shame Squad: The squad pops up when Rick runs Angus' boxers up the flagpole, and again when he pulls his prank at the Winter Ball crowning. Troy, Melissa and Principal Metcalf are the only ones unamused by either act.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Rick rigs the ball voting so Angus will be humiliated at being matched up with Rick's beautiful girlfriend. Melissa has far more in common with Angus than Rick realizes and takes a liking to him in the end.
  • Jerk Jock: Rick Sanford, all the way.
  • Kick the Dog: Whether it's playing cruel pranks, lying about Melissa's dread of dancing with Angus just to hurt his feelings, or accidentally breaking Troy's arm when the kid tries to run away, Rick punts several puppies clear through the goalposts in his quest to humiliate Angus.
  • Keep Circulating the Tapes: There has never been a commercial DVD release because New Line Cinema sold the rights, and no one knew who had them! Warner Bros. seems to have wound up with them, though, as they are making the film available as an unofficial DVD.
  • Mood Whiplash: Ivan and April's wedding.
  • Not So Different: Once he gets to know her, Angus learns that despite being a popular, attractive cheerleader, Melissa is just as scared and insecure about herself as he is about himself. She even sweats when she gets nervous, just like he does.
    Melissa: Do you ever get tired of being who you are?
    Angus: Do you know who you're talking to?
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Principal Metcalf is very sympathetic to Angus, and he frowns heavily on Rick's cruelty.
  • Running Gag: "You broke his nose!" A very humorous Ironic Echo of this occurs at the end.
    • Also, Angus waking up his grandfather with a recording of Revele. Becomes Mood Whiplash the last time, when it doesn't work.
  • Spotlight-Stealing Squad: Rick is this for Angus; at the football game at the start of the film, when Rick's pass is intercepted, Angus causes the fumble that Rick recovers and scores the game-winner. The crowd rushes Rick while stepping over a prone Angus.
  • Stepford Smiler: Though she seems quite cheerful and always has a smile ready for her friends, Melissa is secretly depressed, suffers from bulimia, and it's suggested that her boyfriend Rick may be abusive to her.
  • Tacky Tuxedo: Since it was the only one in his size, Angus wears a particularly hideous purple one to the Winter Ball.
  • Talk to the Fist: A particularly heelish one, as Rick suckerpunches Angus during the climactic scene.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Angus gives a truly fantastic one to Rick that is easily his Crowning Moment Of Awesome.
  • Unintentional Period Piece: Angus favors the flannel-and-jeans "grunge" look that went out of fashion shortly after the movie debuted. The soundtrack is also full to bursting with 90's Alterna-Rock (and Peter Gabriel).
  • Your Mom: When Rick makes fun of Angus having his clothes stolen ("I'd lend you my shirt, but I'm afraid it might rip"), Troy is quick to fire back, "That's because it's cheap. Like your mother."

The American PresidentFilms of the 1990sApollo 13

alternative title(s): Angus
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