Cocktail Review
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The 1980s gave us a lot of things: Alf, personal computers, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and, of course, plenty of cheesy ‘80s movies. They’re the kind of movies that (along with a nice, stiff drink) are just what the doctor ordered after a long week of work—movies like Better Off Dead or Ghostbusters or director Roger Donaldson’s drink-mixing drama, Cocktail.

After serving his time in the Army, Brian Flanagan (Tom Cruise) catches a bus to New York City, planning to get a job on Wall Street and make his millions. Without a college degree, though, the only job he can get is in a bar on the Upper East Side. By day, Brian takes business courses at City College. By night, he learns some very different lessons from boss Doug Coughlin (Bryan Brown), a fast-talking, bottle-flipping showman who scoffs at Brian’s big-business dreams.

Doug and Brian become a popular bartending duo, eventually working at one of the city’s hottest new clubs, but Brian has something bigger in mind: working together to build a chain of bars called Cocktails and Dreams. So when he and Doug have a falling out, Brian heads to Jamaica to make his seed money. There, he meets pretty aspiring artist Jordan (Elisabeth Shue) and falls in love.

Cocktail is a fun-loving ‘80s classic—a colorful cocktail of bouncy music, neon lights, tropical beaches, and regrettable ‘80s fashions. Though the story warns against greed and superficiality, the film itself is a time capsule of days when the music was fun and carefree (think “Kokomo” by the Beach Boys or Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”), the styles were silly (Hello, MC Hammer pants!), and Tom Cruise was the coolest guy on the planet.

The ‘80s excess is everywhere here; everyone has a yacht or a posh apartment in New York. And, for the most part, the attitude is upbeat and happy-go-lucky. Even the struggling bartenders don’t have a care in the world. They spend their late-night shifts singing and dancing and flirting with pretty girls—always grinning from ear to ear. It’s enough to make you quit your job and head to bartending school (as long as they’ll teach you how to twirl a cocktail shaker like Tom Cruise, that is).

Of course, when you take away the ‘80s nostalgia—and an oh-so-cool Tom Cruise—Cocktail is, admittedly, a bit of a mess. Though the bottle-flipping bar scenes are the film’s most memorable, it isn’t always fun and games—or even Cocktails and Dreams. Despite the tropical settings and the party atmosphere, the film has some surprisingly dark, dramatic moments. The story, meanwhile, meanders from New York to Jamaica and back again as characters and plotlines come and go with little fanfare.

Still, while the story may be a bit muddled (and the acting is generally horrendous), the ‘80s attitude and the charming characters make Cocktail a retro guilty pleasure—one that’s worth another look on a laid-back Friday night. Just make sure that your bar is stocked with rum and tequila before the movie begins—because it’s guaranteed to leave you craving rum punch and Margaritas.

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