Continental Divide (1981) / Comedy-Romance
MPAA Rated: PG for mild sexuality and language
Running Time: 103 min.
Cast: John Belushi, Blair Brown, Allen Goorwitz, Carlin Glynn, Tony Ganios, Val Avery, Liam Russell, Tim Kazurinski (cameo)
Director: Michael Apted
Screenplay: Lawrence Kasdan
Review published July 26, 2005
John Belushi (The Blues Brothers, Goin' South) stars as Chicogo Sun-Times star reporter Ernie Souchak, a household name in town for exposing corrupt politicians, whose latest assignment is to travel to the Rocky Mountains in order to do a story on Nell Porter (Brown, Altered States), a famed ornithologist that has dedicated her life to the preservation of the bald eagle. Nell doesn't want a reporter around, and lets it be known, but Souchak is there for the two week duration, like it or not, so she makes due. Soon, the two begin to grow on one another, but will this be just a summer fling, or can the two people that are firmly rooted in their respective homes find a way to make it work?
A forgotten little movie in the filmography of screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan, who had been on a roll of fantastic proportions of hit movies, including The Empire Strikes Back, Body Heat, and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Unlike those films, this one is as small scale as it gets, a whimsical romantic comedy that scores all of its points in the subtlest of ways, not the least of which comes from the only straight role in John Belushi's short career. Perhaps a surprise to his fans, Belushi is quite good as a romantic lead, forming an unlikely chemistry with Blair Brown that makes this simple story a real charmer for those in the mood for a light romance.
Michael Apted's (Agatha, The World is Not Enough) direction is workmanlike, although Kasdan seems to be over inflating the fame and importance of hot beat reporters working for big city papers quite a bit. In fact, if there is a weak point to Continental Divide, its the preposterousness of all of the dealings with the newspaper, especially with the influence that Souchak seems to hold in all corners of the city. While one can overlook the overindulgences for the sake of the comedy and love story, it's still hard to ignore altogether, especially since it it takes up roughly a third of the total running length.
Continental Divide isn't a great movie, but it is amiable, amusing, and will probably leave most viewers smiling, which is a lot more than most romantic comedies of this type can claim. Recommended for those looking for something light to watch as a couple, as well as for Belushi fans that appreciate his skills as an actor rather than just a funny character comedian. He's created so many memorable crackpot performances over the years, but who knew he had it in him to play such a normal guy, and to do it with such genuine flair?
©2005 Vince Leo