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Film / License to Drive

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A 1988 American teen comedy directed by Greg Beeman that has a teen (Corey Haim) trying to have a great date night with a beautiful girl (Heather Graham), despite failing his driver's test and having a night at the town.

The movie also stars Corey Feldman, Carol Kane, Richard Masur, Parley Baer, Nina Siemaszko, James Avery, and Grant Goodeve.

It was released on July 6, 1988.

Tropes for the film:

  • Accidental Misnaming: Natalie's "commie" boyfriend repeatedly refers to and addresses her as "Natasha." Possibly it's meant as an Affectionate Nickname; however, near the end of the film, she yells, "My name is Natalie!" which seems to surprise him.
  • The Alleged Car: Over the course of the film, Grandpa's once majestic Cadillac gets completely totaled by the events of Les' misadventure. By the end, it can only drive in reverse, and a falling crane finishes it off. And then it turns out Grandpa wrecked his son's BMW as well.
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  • Artistic License – Law: Even if the police officers on a scene are called away as backup due to a riot, there is no way they'd just drive off and leave behind a drunk driver and a kid who not only didn't have a driver's license but had his obviously inebriated date in the trunk of his car.
  • Cool Car: The Cadillac, prior to all the damage it sustains, is an incredibly cool car to the protagonists. 16 years old with less than 20,000 miles on it. It has a set of gulf clubs in the huge trunk (bigger than Dean's bedroom) and a cassette stereo that prefers Frank Sinatra, tolerates the modern song "Trouble" but absolutely hates Les's "Love Songs" mixtape. There are plenty of other cool cars too including Pablo's Ferrari 308, a yellow Iroc-Z Camaro, the punk's GTO and various hot rods seen at Archies.
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  • Dark and Troubled Past: Mercedes Lane has some hints of this. She's a teenager dating a much older guy (who is openly misogynistic, controlling, and unfaithful), talks about a father who may or may not still be in her life, and downs a bottle of champagne after catching said older guy cheating.
  • Delayed Reaction: Les quietly enters the garage when his parents come out, and he hides in the car. Les's dad notices that the garage was left open; his wife thinks Natalie left it but he reminds her that she took the Audi. Then he notices car tracks over the front lawn. When his wife began to go into labor, he's just about to go to her when he finally notices that his father's car is totally wrecked. Which leads to...
    Robert Anderson: Something wrong with your bed, Les?
    (Les comes out of his hiding place under the car's dash)
    Robert Anderson: Mind explaining to me what sized shark was responsible for this?
    Les Anderson: Well, it wa—
    Robert Anderson: No! I don't want to know! I don't want to know! Save it for the Judge! Do you have any idea what you've done tonight, Les? What this means to your future in this house and on this planet?!
    Les Anderson: I have an idea.
    (Robert begins pacing around the wrecked Caddy while Les fearfully moves to avoid him)
  • Driving Test: Les has to get his driver's license in order to date Mercedes. Hilarity Ensues. Les actually does incredibly well on his road test; it's the written test that he fails.
  • Laughing Mad: Subverted. When Grandpa sees the absolute wreck his car has become, he starts giggling in a manner that comes across as this. It turns out he's laughing at how he also wrecked his son's car the night before as well.
  • Percussive Maintenance: Les accidentally does this to the computer system when he bombs the written driving exam and smacks his monitor in frustration. It knocks out all the computers in the room, making his results temporarily unavailable. However, since Natalie aced the written exam, the proctor allows him to go ahead with the road test because she figures he can't be that different from his twin sister.
  • Polar Opposite Twins: Les and Natalie probably couldn't be more different if they were actively trying (which, all things considered, they very possibly are).
  • Police Are Useless: The two police officers at the sobriety checkpoint get an Epic Fail for this one. When Les and a drunk driver are caught, the two officers are called away due to a riot at Allied Tech. This is after catching a drunk driver, catching Les driving without a license and finding Les's date in the trunk of the car. They should all have been placed under arrest on the spot. Instead, one officer Lamp Shades how lucky Les is and runs off. Hilarity Ensues when the drunk driver is also left behind by the guy's partner (who left him unattended and clearly forgot about him), mistakes the Caddy for a Maserati, and drives off in it.
    Les: I'm dead. I'm so dead they're gonna have to bury me twice.
    (While driving, the Drunk Driver removes several small bottles from his pockets and lines them up on the dashboard while listening to Frank Sinatra's "That's Life")
    Drunk Driver: Looks like I'm in for the night.
    (after jumping the Caddy)
    Drunk Driver: Whew! What airline is this?
  • Practically Different Generations: Les and Natalie are sixteen years old. Their mother is pregnant and, near the end of the movie, gives birth to another set of twins. This also plants the family (just barely) in Massive Numbered Siblings territory, as there is another brother roughly midway between the two sets of twins in age.
  • The Precious, Precious Car: The car is Les's grandfather's 1972 Cadillac Sedan De Ville, which he left behind while he was going out for the weekend with the family's BMW. The simple plan was for Les to just take his girlfriend Mercedes out for a ride, a couple hours long. By the end of the film, the Cadillac has been completely wrecked in a demolition-derby ride through Los Angeles, up to and including being stolen by a drunk driver (who pukes inside of the car) and driving in reverse to the hospital by Les to help his mother deliver a baby (and the car then gets flattened by a falling girder). Grandpa didn't have any better luck himself, either, and he hands the keys to the BMW and the towed remains of the car in the epilogue.
  • Watch the Paint Job: Les borrows his grandfather's prized 1972 Cadillac without permission, and during the course of a very wild night, it sustains major damage. Inverted when the grandfather laughs off the damage because he had also destroyed the BMW he had borrowed from Les's father.
    Grandpa: (through laughter) I had a little trouble with your car too!
  • What Could Possibly Go Wrong?: The central part of the movie, not only is the exact phrase used, not only is it used by Les, not only is the moment he says it featured prominently in the movie's trailer... but he addresses the question directly to the audience! Of course, as it turns out, the answer is practically everything that could.