Summer of the 80’s: License To Drive

Summer of the 80′s is a weekly column that will run until the end of August in which I watch a movie released during the summer movie season of the 1980′s that I’ve never seen before. Every Friday, I’ll write about an 80′s movie that came out on the same day, or near the same day, that correlates with the post here on the site. So follow me as I travel back in time to discover my lost summer at the movies.

About the movie

License To Drive was released on July 6, 1988 by Twentieth Century Fox.  It was directed by Greg Beeman, whose only other two big screen credits include Mom and Dad Save the World and Bushwacked.  The screenplay was written by Neil Tolkin (Jury Duty, The Emperor’s Club).  The film stars Corey Haim, Corey Feldman, Heather Graham, Michael Manasseri, Richard Masur and Carol Kane.  This PG-13 rated film had an estimated budget of $8 million.  It grossed about $22.4 million domestically.  It is currently available on Blu-ray and DVD, as well as on Netflix streaming.


Some guys get all the brakes.

My thoughts

I think I let my expectations get a little to high for License to Drive.  After all, how could I think that a film that headlines Corey Haim and Corey Feldman, two staples of the era, wouldn’t be a pinnacle of 80s movies?  I think in my head I made it out to be THE prime example of an 80s comedy before even seeing it.  I’m sure the film has its fans and may even be considered to be an essential 80s movie by some.  After watching it, I can say that I was definitely entertained, and that it does contain a lot of the 80s vibe I was hoping for, it just wasn’t to the extreme that I thought it was going to be.  More or less, License to Drive feels like it is a film that was created out of the success of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.  It’s all about teens that have a crazy day (or in this case, night) and despite all the danger and odd situations they get into, they make it out unscathed.

License to Drive starts off with with a dream sequence in which Les Anderson (Corey Haim) escapes from a demented school bus ride and escapes with the girl of his dreams (Heather Graham) only to wake up to find that he’s in one of his driver’s ed classes.  This kicks off a title sequence set to a song about driving a car and falling in love (subtle hint to the plot of the movie maybe?) with some very lame looking traffic sign graphics floating through the screen.  May all movies strive to create title sequences as elaborate as this one!  Les takes his driver’s test and fails and in a moment of frustration, hits the monitor of the computer he’s at which knocks out the whole computer test system.  With the motor vehicle employees being the dunces they are (in the movie, not in real life of course), they pass him based solely on the fact that his twin sister passed and the assumed fact that all twins must have the same level of intelligence.  He takes his road test and passes, showing an instant skill for being able to drive a car.  They print off his driver’s license and Les has it in hand before the license issuer revokes it once the computer system comes back online and reveals that he failed his computerized test.  Les, not wanting to look like a failure, tells all his family and friends he passed.  Everyone starts hitting him up for rides, which he tries to avoid, until Mercedes (Graham) calls upon Les for a date.  He takes his grandfather’s Cadillac and picks up Mercedes to go out (notice her car brand name? this will be used for joke fodder in the movie a couple times).  This is the jumping off point for which Les’s night gets out of control as he drives around without license.

On his date with Mercedes, who must only be like fifteen, maybe fourteen, she gets ahold of a bottle of champagne and chugs it down like it’s a Capri Sun.  This causes her to pass out, a state that she remains in for most of the movie’s running time.  Les grabs his buddies (Corey Feldman and Michael Manasseri) and they find themselves in all sorts of situations involving some thug racers, the police and an encounter with a drunk driver, all the while the passed out Mercedes is either in the trunk or the backseat.

The drunk driver sequence is probably my favorite segment of the movie.  The drunk is pretty funny and leads them on a big car chase, unbeknownst to him, after he sees keys in the ignition of the Caddy and decides to take off in his new free car.  He also trashes the car that Les is so protective over as he careens through the streets.  The car chase is definitely the big action set piece of the film and even has Corey Haim climbing out of a car into the Caddy as they race down a highway.  After all the craziness that the three friends go through that night, Les shamefully takes the Caddy home completely destroyed.  He knows he’s in for a big punishment from his father (Richard Masur), who goes berserk when he sees the damaged Caddy.  What I found funny is that the dad completely forgives his son about ten minutes later after Les drives his family to the hospital (his mother is in labor) while driving in reverse the whole way there.  Apparently if you drive dangerously but show solid driving skills, you can instantly be forgiven for totaling an expensive Cadillac.

There is plenty of fun to be had with License to Drive, especially if you are a fan of 80s teen comedies or of the two Coreys.  My favorite cast member was actually neither Haim or Feldman, but was Carol Kane as the pregnant mother.  She played the randomly eccentric mother like only Carol Kane can.  While the film doesn’t seem wholly original, it has enough personality to sustain it and make for an enjoyable time.  Unlike another movie featuring the two Coreys, The Lost Boys, I don’t think License to Drive will survive as an iconic film from the 80s, except to its diehard fans.  However, if you want to watch a fun comedy from that era, License to Drive is an easy choice.


Ben Affleck auditioned for the role of Les Anderson.

Neither Corey Feldman nor Corey Haim had driver’s licenses and were working on getting theirs during the filming of the movie.

The license plate on the Cadillac in the film changes from “GRANDPA” to “GRANPA” in various scenes.

At the beginning of the movie when Les is dreaming, the school bus that chases him down the road is filled with mannequins as you can clearly see.

Corey Feldman chose all his own wardrobe.

Neil Tolkin’s script actually started out as a failed National Lampoon magazine article.


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3 Comments on “Summer of the 80’s: License To Drive”

  1. Nobody'sDeadman July 27, 2012 at 1:19 pm #

    I also enjoy the part when he is about to jump in the Cadillac and proclaims, “Ooooohhhhhh, a Maserati. This is much nice than my car.”

  2. Ben McBride July 27, 2012 at 1:15 pm #

    Oh yea, the drunk in the movie was probably my favorite part as well.

  3. Nobody'sDeadman July 27, 2012 at 12:46 pm #

    The summer of 1988. Wow. I remember seeing this in the theater. I went with my then stepmom and stepbrother. It was kind of a hysterical moment, however, because my stepbrother failed his driving test literally the same day that we saw this movie.However, looking back now, if you fail your driving test in 1988, you don’t deserve a license. I thought I was the coolest kid seeing this film in the theaters. It’s amazing how big life seems when you are 10 years old.Anyway, this is another pretty bad, yet entertaining, film. Looking back, the true gem of this film is the drunk guy in the car. Whenever you see a 54 year old man cutting limes on the dashboard of a Cadillac while in transit, gargling booze and yelling, “I’m swingin’!”, you can’t help but laugh. When it comes on, I stop, watch, and wait for that guy to show up stealing the car. Thanks for the article.

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