The Cure is a 1995 American drama film directed by Peter Horton and written by Robert Kuhn. The film stars Brad Renfro and Joseph Mazzello and follows an unlikely friendship between two boys, one of whom is suffering from AIDS. When the boys hear of a possible cure for the disease, they set out on a quest to find it.

The Cure
Theatrical release poster
Directed byPeter Horton
Written byRobert Kuhn
Produced byMark Burg
Eric Eisner
CinematographyAndrew Dintenfass
Edited byAnthony Sherin
Music byDave Grusin
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • April 21, 1995 (1995-04-21)
Running time
98 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$10 million[1]
Box office$2.57 million (US)[2]

The film was distributed by Universal Pictures and was released to theaters on April 21, 1995. It was not a box-office success, earning only $2.57 million.[2] Although The Cure received mixed reviews from critics, the performances of Mazzello and Renfro received acclaim and both actors earned Young Artist Awards nominations.

Horton received the Audience Award at the Cinekid Festival and Renfro won an award for Best Performance in a Drama Film at the first annual YoungStar Awards. The film also received a Grammy Award nomination for its score by Dave Grusin.

Plot Edit

Erik is an eleven-year-old loner who has just moved to a small town in Stillwater, Minnesota. Accompanying Erik is his newly divorced, emotionally abusive and neglectful workaholic mother, Gail. Erik and his neighbor Dexter, who contracted HIV through a blood transfusion, become good friends despite initial mutual dislike and their differences, as Erik seeks the familial relationships he grew up without in Dexter and his mother Linda. Erik hides the friendship from his mother, knowing that she won't approve due to her own prejudice regarding AIDS.

Gail discovers the friendship one night after Linda comes over to ask Erik about something Dexter ate in the boys' quest to find a natural cure for his disease. She furiously warns Linda to keep Dexter away, but Linda encourages the friendship. When the boys read an article in a tabloid about a doctor in distant New Orleans who claims to have found a cure for AIDS, they set out on their own down the Mississippi River with the hope of finding a means of saving Dexter's life.

The boys take a boat down the river with a bunch of degenerates who don't treat the pair very well. Eventually the boys steal their money and try to hitchhike the rest of the way. When the boatmen find out their money has been stolen, they locate the kids at a bus station and proceed to chase them until they reach a dead end of a dilapidated building. Erik draws a switchblade and one of the men draws a knife. Dexter suddenly grabs the knife from Erik and cuts his own hand. He threatens the boatman with his blood, saying that he has AIDS and could easily transfer the disease to him through the man's open wounds. This scares the men off. Dexter then realizes what he has done by directly exposing his blood to the outside environment. He suddenly feels sick, so Erik escorts him back to the bus station. Realizing that their journey must end if Dexter is to be treated, Erik resorts to calling Linda to have her pick the boys up when they reach Stillwater by bus.

Once they return, Dexter spends the rest of his time in the hospital. As his relationship with his mother has grown increasingly strained, Erik goes to stay with Linda who lets him visit Dexter. The boys joke and prank the doctors three times that Dexter has died, but when a third doctor arrives to check on him, Dexter has died for real. While driving Erik home, Linda notices a mother holding her young child while crossing the street. Reminded of her own son, she pulls over and breaks down crying. Erik apologizes to her, saying that he should have tried harder to find a cure. Linda, taken aback by his comment, embraces Erik, explaining that he was the happiest thing in Dexter's difficult life. Upon their arrival at home, a furious Gail confronts the pair. When Gail starts to hit Erik, Linda quickly intervenes, angrily and tearfully informs her of Dexter's death, and demands that she allow Erik to attend the funeral and never hit him again and threatens to report her to child protective services. Gail guiltily complies.

At Dexter's funeral, Erik places one of his shoes in the coffin and takes one of Dexter's to let sail down the river. This pays homage to an earlier moment in their trip when Dexter, who was having nightmares, was given one of Erik's sneakers to hold as a reminder that he's always by his side.

Cast Edit

Production Edit

Development Edit

The script for the film was written in 1993 by Robert Kuhn.[1] Although studio executives were initially skittish about the film's commercial prospects due to its subject matter, the script became a hot property when Steven Spielberg's production company Amblin Entertainment showed interest in buying it.[1] A resulting bidding war ended with a million-dollar sale to Eric Eisner of Island Pictures.[1]

Eisner sought out Martin Brest to direct the film, but Brest declined as he was unsure he could get the necessary performances out of young actors.[1] Other directors who declined were Sydney Pollack, Rob Reiner and Paul Brickman.[1] Universal Pictures, who had signed on to distribute the film, expressed concern that no director had yet come on board, so Eisner halved the film's initial $20 million budget and hired Peter Horton to direct.[1]

While the script circulated through talent agencies for the casting process, some industry figures criticized the script's irresponsibility in its treatment of homosexuality and accused it of homophobia.[1] Particular criticism was directed towards scenes in which neighborhood bullies insult Dexter, calling him gay slurs while no other characters attempt to neutralize the insults.[1] Horton attempted to address this problem through the character of Jerry, a gay male nurse played by actor Peter Moore. Commenting on Jerry's character, journalist Jess Cagle opined, "Jerry's homosexuality is apparent only in a slight part of Moore's performance. The result is an effeminate character who is at best secretly gay, at worst an offensive stereotype."[1]

Casting Edit

Horton hoped to cast big stars to boost the film's box office returns and asked his ex-wife Michelle Pfeiffer and actress Meg Ryan to participate, both of whom declined.[1] Horton was hesitant to work with children as he doubted the ability of young actors to express the emotional weight needed for the film, but was blown away by the auditions of both Joseph Mazzello and Brad Renfro.[3][4] Mazzello had not met anyone with AIDS before, so Horton suggested he watch an HBO special about an Australian boy who died of the disease.[5]

Filming Edit

The film was shot over the summer of 1994 in Stillwater, Minnesota.[6] Locations included the St. Croix River and Minnehaha Creek.[1]

Soundtrack Edit

The original soundtrack to the film was composed by Dave Grusin and released by GRP Records on May 9, 1995.[7]

Tommy Morgan contributed to the musical harmony and Michael Fisher worked with percussion. The instruments used in the martial band of the track are: piano, electric bass, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, synthesizer, and alto flute. The song called "My Great Escape" was written and performed by Marc Cohn. However, this song has never been released in any medium outside of the film.

In a review for AllMusic, Jason Ankeny commented, "The music's gentle strings and playful woodwinds sweetly capture the innocence of childhood without trafficking in schmaltz...More important, he treats the film's subject matter...with admirable restraint, eschewing heart-tugging treacle in favor of light, organic melodies that celebrate life instead of mourning its loss."[7]

Reception Edit

Box office Edit

The Cure debuted in the number 13 spot in North American theaters and grossed $1.2 million during its opening weekend.[2] Across 832 theaters in the US and Canada, the film's grosses totaled to $2,568,425.[2] It performed better in Japan, grossing more than $4.5 million in its first three weeks of release with $1.73 million on opening weekend across 33 theatres.[8]

Critical response Edit

The Cure has an approval rating of 45% based on 11 critics' reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, with an average rating of 5.5/10.[9]

The performances of Renfro, Mazzello, and Sciorra were roundly praised.[10][11][12][13] Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly gave a positive review, stating "Mazzello is naturally captivating and Renfro especially, is a remarkably instinctive young actor...What makes us cry is not that Dexter has AIDS, but that Dexter and Erik have each other to the end, until death separates them. It is an odd feat to create a dramatic story that brings us to tears even without worrying about AIDS. 'The Cure' achieved this miracle."[14] Peter Stack of The San Francisco Chronicle said Renfro and Mazzello's "performances are so warm and richly a loving, funny and wistful film that plays like a slightly torn Norman Rockwell illustration."[15]

Kevin Thomas from the Los Angeles Times wrote, "[The film] works as a drama on friendship and its challenges" and commended Horton in drawing measured performances from his actors.[16] Stephen Holden of The New York Times stated "it evokes with an intense clarity the particular blend of innocence, curiosity, terror and bravado that drives children to commit desperate acts."[11]

Among the criticisms were that the film was predictable, implausible and manipulative.[11][17] Thomas noted, "All told, 'The Cure' plays more like a movie made for TV than the big screen."[16] Leonard Klady of Variety stated, "Director Peter Horton is more assured with his artists, particularly the central youngsters. The strength he brings to the material is in the development of their relationship," but lamented that "wholly preposterous plot turns take over, and [the] pic never recovers once the two boys decide to paddle down the Mississippi a la Huck Finn."[10]

Another criticism was towards the film's softening of the physical ravages of AIDS,[14] "[reducing] the symptoms to weakness, occasional fever and a few mild coughing fits."[11] Schwarzbaum wrote, "A dying child is emotional blackmail; a child dying of AIDS is an emotional bludgeon, and a filmmaker would do well to keep the case very, very specific, rather than make the deterioration a poetic mystery."[14]

Joey O'Bryan of The Austin Chronicle said, "There are some good, effective moments in The Cure, but far too often the film lapses into silly heart-tugging...[ultimately] the movie's good intentions are rarely realized, and the nice message of this family film (Kids with AIDS are people too!) is unfortunately delivered with a slight whiff of homophobia. Then subtract another half a star for the absurdly in-your-face Butterfinger product placement, and what you've got left is a competently acted, high concept, family entertainment, coming of age, AIDS tearjerker that occasionally doubles as a candy bar commercial."[18]

Accolades Edit

Award Category Nominee(s) Result
Cinekid Festival Audience Award Peter Horton Won
YoungStar Awards[19] Best Performance by a Young Actor in a Drama Film Brad Renfro Won
Grammy Awards[20] Best Instrumental Composition Written for a Motion Picture or for Television Dave Grusin Nominated
Young Artist Awards[21] Best Family Feature - Drama The Cure Nominated
Best Young Leading Actor - Feature Film Joseph Mazzello Nominated
Best Young Leading Actor - Feature Film Brad Renfro Nominated

Home media Edit

The Cure was released in DVD on November 23, 2004[22] and also in Blu-ray on March 23, 2021 in Japan.

The film was released on Blu-ray in the United States via Mill Creek Entertainment, under their "Retro VHS Collection", on October 4, 2022.[23]

References Edit

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Cagle, Jess (April 28, 1995). "Headaches Over 'The Cure'". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on June 23, 2015. Retrieved July 30, 2022.
  2. ^ a b c d "The Cure (1995)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved April 23, 2019.
  3. ^ Lauerman, Connie (April 16, 1995). "The Cure For Hollywood 'Formula'". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on July 29, 2022. Retrieved July 29, 2022.
  4. ^ McKerrow, Steve (April 21, 1995). "Director Peter Horton pays one last visit to childhood in 'The Cure' One for the Boys". The Baltimore Sun. Archived from the original on October 26, 2020. Retrieved July 30, 2022.
  5. ^ Longsdorf, Amy (April 21, 1995). "Directing 'The Cure' was a tonic for Peter Horton". The Morning Call. Archived from the original on July 29, 2022. Retrieved July 30, 2022.
  6. ^ Hartl, John (April 25, 1995). "Horton looks back in 'The Cure'". Seattle Times. pp. A10. Retrieved July 30, 2022 – via Reading Eagle.
  7. ^ a b "The Cure [Original Soundtrack]". AllMusic. Retrieved July 30, 2022.
  8. ^ Hindes, Andrew (September 11, 1995). "Japanese savvy turns 'Cure' into hit". Variety. Retrieved January 21, 2020.
  9. ^ "The Cure". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved April 24, 2019.
  10. ^ a b Klady, Leonard (April 13, 1995). "The Cure". Variety. Retrieved April 23, 2019.
  11. ^ a b c d Holden, Stephen (April 21, 1995). "FILM REVIEW; Two Boys in Quest of a Cure". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 23, 2019.
  12. ^ Thomas, Bob (April 28, 1995). "'The Cure' is a child's view of AIDS epidemic". Associated Press. pp. 13E. Retrieved July 30, 2022 – via The Albany Herald.
  13. ^ Sheffield, Skip (April 21, 1995). "A Huck Finn kind of tale". The News. pp. 4E. Retrieved July 30, 2022.
  14. ^ a b c Schwarzbaum, Lisa (April 21, 1995). "The Cure". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved April 23, 2019.
  15. ^ Stack, Peter (April 21, 1995). "Friendship Fuels Boys' Quest for a 'Cure'". San Francisco Chronicle.
  16. ^ a b Thomas, Kevin (April 21, 1995). "MOVIE REVIEW : Two Young Friends Seek 'The Cure' in AIDS Drama". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved April 23, 2019.
  17. ^ Ebert, Roger (April 21, 1995). "The Cure Movie Review & Film Summary (1995)". Retrieved April 23, 2019.
  18. ^ O'Bryan, Joey (April 21, 1995). "Movie Review: The Cure". The Austin Chronicle. Retrieved April 23, 2019.
  19. ^ Kleid, Beth (October 2, 1995). "Awards". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 30, 2022.
  20. ^ "38th Annual Grammy Awards: Final Nominations". Billboard. Vol. 108, no. 2. January 13, 1996. p. 74.
  21. ^ "17th Youth In Film Awards". Archived from the original on April 2, 2011. Retrieved July 30, 2022.
  22. ^ "The Cure DVD". Retrieved July 30, 2022.
  23. ^ "Mill Creek: New Retro VHS Collection Titles Coming Soon". July 22, 2022. Retrieved July 23, 2022.

External links Edit