Racing With The Moon

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Before they were anybody Nicolas Cage and Crispin Glover starred in a musical pilot for a show that never got picked up titled The Best Of Times (1981). Richard Benjamin’s film Racing With The Moon (1984) briefly reunited Glover and Cage as well as reuniting Cage with his Fast Times At Ridgemont High (1982) co-star Sean Penn. But Racing With The Moon is never as poignant as Fast Times At Ridgemont High nor as silly as The Best Of Times. Racing With The Moon is a sentimental coming of age melodrama set in 1943 that deals in some of the same themes as Cage’s other war film that year, Birdy (1984), but incorporates the saccharine romance of a Hanover Street (1979) or Pearl Harbor (2001).

Racing With The Moon follows the Sean Penn character as he discovers himself in the month before commencing his basic training as a Marine. On his journey through small town hijinks he’s joined by best pal Cage and serious love interest Elizabeth McGovern. All the class anxieties, sexual frustrations, and fears of intimacy that one expects from this type of film are delivered in full. Penn, McGovern and Cage handle the material with the pathos and humor it calls for.

Racing With The Moon is a film that is remarkable only for being so incredibly unremarkable. Actor turned director Richard Benjamin has no visual flair or sense of cinematographic economy but he can direct actors. So the result is a well played but poorly structured film that is never quite as impactful as it tries to be. Racing With The Moon is a cinematic confection that is forgotten as soon as it is consumed.

So why watch Racing With The Moon? Well, at times it can be affecting but really it is of interest because of its cast. It is always interesting to see actors who would go on to become major stars in their early work. Penn as the awkward romantic is a part he has rarely played since and Nicolas Cage completely reigns in his performance as if for a dress rehearsal for the much better Birdy. Racing With The Moon is a film for completists and historians, or anyone who has ever wanted to see Crispin Glover get punched in the nose.