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Choices

Did you know there was a study done proving after-school specials actually solved the problems and cured the diseases they featured? For example, it was not until Winnie the Pooh and his gang of Cartoon All-Stars tackled the subject of drugs that the war was actually won, made victorious by third and fourth grade activists who tracked down every last Columbian drug lord and successfully brought them to justice. It was an amazing time to be an American, let me tell you. Similarly, no one had thought of giving civil rights to the handicapped until Choices came along, as we were perfectly content with letting them live in our basements, subsisting on rice pudding and powdered milk. Thank God for television, am I right?

Choices is the kind of ham-fisted, “based on a true story” malarkey where kids talk to their parents, issues are debated, and an eventual conclusion arrives involving all of the characters achieving their goals and going on to lead rich, happy lives. You’ve seen it all a million times, I’m sure, but the DVD thinks it has a hook worthy enough of putting down some cash: Demi Moore. Of course, like all low-budget DVD transfers, the movie doesn’t so much star Moore as feature an extended cameo, but the box would have you think she’s the reason the project was filmed. In a bit of writing genius, the DVD claims the actress went on to star in such films as G.I. Jane and Stripper. You remember the movie Stripper right? Oh, wait, maybe you don’t, as it was actually called Striptease! Someone obviously wasn’t doing their homework.

So if this drippy sap-fest isn’t about Demi Moore, then who could it possibly be about? Why none other an all-American character John Carluccio, played by current CSI cast member Paul Carafotes. John has lots of friends, fools around with pretty girls, and is so excited to be a part of the world he actually forgets to put on pants before going out, which amuses his parents to no end. Oh, that John, always so enthusiastic. It seems as if he has no problems at all! Of course, this is an after-school special, but even though John will face tough times, they’re the kind most of wish we could see in this age of terrorism, bird flu, and killer bee attacks.

To begin with, a stuffy doctor takes John off the football team after learning about his “handicap,” i.e. a hearing aid. This is the main issue of the story, as many people will discuss whether or not John is truly “handicapped” and thus able to play with the normal boys. He is, of course, the star of the team, and so his peers desperately try to reinstate him before “the big game” arrives. Man, so many clichés and not nearly enough quotation marks.

While waiting for the school board to vote on his football career, John is pressured by his grandfather to continue pursuing a career in, I swear to God, classical violin. Grandpa even offers to help the kid get into a highly esteemed music school, for crying out loud. So, Johnny, shall you try to foolishly pursue football or study the violin and go on to be a musical aficionado? Man, talk about a tough choice to make! The mind boggles at the complexities of this staggering situation! Thankfully John decides to dump both options and start hanging out with the “wrong crowd” instead. Everyone shakes their heads in disappointment when they see John wearing biker black, smoking cigarettes, and bullying the kids at school, but hey, we can understand his conflict, right? I mean, how in the world do you pick between football and the violin?!

Eventually Moore gets involved, playing a husky-voiced independent-type (go figure) who falls for the hunky John. This is during his “bad boy” phase, however, so she is forced to go with him while he and the gang steal a car and go on a thrill ride around town. This wild behavior results in a boring police chase which John and his girl ultimately escape, and instead of dealing with this crisis they decide to go on a boat ride across the lake. Yep, it’s ooey-gooey romantic time as our couple rows past cute little ducks, chase each other through a park, and make out like bandits. Seriously, it’s like someone was having a Cliché Garage Sale and needed to move everything out.

In the end, John decides to keep fighting for his chance at football, and the last scene sees the coach putting him in despite the demands of the school doctor. John has also learned many important lessons about being deaf, including the magical wonders of lip reading and sign language. His studies in this fields begin after one of the biker goons breaks his hearing aid as an act of redemption after the police chase (don’t ask me why, it just doesn’t make a lot of sense), which taught him how important it is to have other options when communicating with people. Well, that’s great and all, but I have to ask: How many people walking around know sign language? And if you’re without a hearing aid, aren’t you pretty much screwed if you don’t know how to read lips? I guess what I’m trying to say is that sign language isn’t practical in an emergency situation, but then again I’m not some dopey expert from the early ‘80s.There’s nothing especially entertaining about Choices, unless you are a fan of the classic series Strangers with Candy and want to see some of the original roots of its comedy. All of the conventions are here, from the wise mentor barkeep played by guest star Pat Buttram to the impassioned speeches where clunky platitudes are delivered to captivated crowds. It’s definitely a corny little movie, but be warned: the audio and picture quality of the DVD is the worst money can buy. I had to turn up the volume on my television to near max to hear most of the dialogue, and the video is so dark I couldn’t see what was happening about 1/3 of the running time. So if you’re into crisp, clean transfers, this will have you pulling your hair out.

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