Grand Theft Auto

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Our rating: two lava lamps.

Information about this film in the Internet Movie Database.

Your helpful statistics guide to Ron Howard's Grand Theft Auto

# of cars wrecked 48
# of cars stolen 12
# of people in this film with the last name "Howard" 3
# of former Happy Days cast members 2
# of times we felt compelled to yell "Opie" 27
# of times we felt compelled to yell "Richie" 18
# of times Opie suggests having sex 3
# of times Opie says "bullshit" 2
# of helicopters 2
# of ineffectual cops 4
# of minutes spent in character development 14
# of minutes spent in car chases 70
# of minutes for this film total 84
# of times the word "boobie" escapes the lips of Marion "Mrs. C" Ross 8

Sam & Paula, en route to Vegas.
If you made a drinking game out of Grand Theft Auto, you'd be dead of alcohol poisoning in under an hour. It probably wouldn't matter much to your enjoyment of the film, either.

As Richie Cunningham/Opie Taylor/Ron Howard grew older, he was compelled to move behind the camera, where he made films for the greater glory of Hollywood. While others were making more episodes of "Happy Days," Howard was concocting his directorial debut: Grand Theft Auto.

Howard plays Sam Freeman, an everyman engaged to Paula Powers, the daughter of a rich and powerful gubernatorial candidate. No, no, these character names were not chosen with any meaning in mind -- shame on you for even thinking it! Paula spurns the marital choices her father has made for her, and within the first ten minutes of this film, makes the first car theft and the first car wreck in a film that overdoses on both.

Paula and Sam race from Los Angeles toward Las Vegas to get married, followed by her flaky suitor, Collins Hedgeworth, and a band of hangers-on, who want to collect the $25,000 reward Hedgeworth has offered for the "rescue" of his "kidnapped" bride-to-be. That's pretty much all you need to know. Oh yeah, Sam and Paula are driving her father's Rolls Royce, too.

Mrs C. wrestles with a cop!
Quite frankly, after Grand Theft Auto, we're amazed that anyone let Ron Howard behind a camera ever again. While the film has its own kind of loopy charm, the humor is sophomoric and tends toward the obvious. Opie makes waaayyyy too many sexual innuendoes, and we squirmed in our seats as he deep-kissed the leading lady.

It seems that Ron Howard called in every marker he could to get his fiercely personal vision of this film on to celluloid. Howard secured financing from Roger Corman under the agreement that he would star in Corman's Eat My Dust! (1976). In addition, the film is co-written by Ron and his father, Rance, who co-stars as a mercenary, and also features Ron's brother, the ubiquitous Clint Howard. And finally, Marion Ross, Mrs Cunningham on Happy Days, was called in to provide much-needed comic support. At one point, she flips the bird at a cop, an action which probably set seventies audiences into gales of laughter. Sure.

What results is a film that seems to be completely the result of Ron Howard's adolescent need to see cars get wrecked. Really, it's that simple. The rest of the script reads like something drunken frat boys might work up over a quiet weekend. The example that springs to mind are the two yokels, one of whom adds an 'o' on to every other word he says ("Let's get-o this automobilio on the road-o"). His companion starts laughing and says, "It really cracks me up when you speak Mexican!" And that's one of the big laugh getters in this movie.

In any case, the movie just moves from one group of people chasing the young lovers to another group chasing the young newlyweds, etc. etc. So many cars get wrecked that we felt compelled to count. And THAT became a challenge during the climax, which takes place after all the main characters blunder their way into a demolition derby, where all great romantic movies have their climaxes.

In 1977, we can imagine a scene in which moviegoers had a choice between Star Wars and Grand Theft Auto. Sadly, some of them must have chosen Grand Theft Auto, because it somehow made its way to videotape and into the homes of American moviewatchers. Well, at least the frat boys will be happy.

Other great pictures from Grand Theft Auto

We couldn't leave out a pic of an accident.

This guy plays the DJ in Death Race 2000, too.
Talk about being stuck in a rut!
The obligatory Clint Howard scene.

Rent or Buy from Reel.

Review date: 12/17/96

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