White Boy Rick shows us the problem with 1980s nostalgia

wbr pic
Photo courtesy Sony Pictures

By: Hugh Brown

NIAGARA UNIVERSITY, N.Y. – This love and nostalgia for the 1980s in our current pop culture is a trend that will not end. Filmmakers are desperate to captivate audiences with call backs and wood-paneled station wagons. Lately we’ve seen shows like “Stranger Things” and films like the 2016 “Ghostbusters” remake, the 2017 “It” remake, or Spielberg’s new “Ready Player One.” Nostalgia is a dangerous tool; when used correctly it enhances a film’s environment, but a film needs to have a compelling story to be enhanced. “White Boy Rick” was an interesting film, but leaves the viewer wanting more.

In a Quentin Tarantino-esque world, 14-year-old Rick from Detroit becomes an informant for the FBI (the youngest person to ever do so) and gets caught up in the world of drug dealing. Based on a true story, this film shines in a lot of areas. Matthew Mcconaughey stars as Rick’s father, Rick Sr, and dominates the screen whenever he’s on it. Watching a movie like this and seeing Mcconaughey in action makes the viewer wish they were watching a film with him as the lead. In fact, this film is plagued with side characters that are ultimately more interesting than our protagonist. Rick, played by high school student Richie Merritt in his first role, feels more like a cardboard cut out of a person than a protagonist. He is thrown around from one scene to the next, never making his own decisions and solely doing what others tell him.

The film has a soundtrack featuring Run-DMC, Grandmaster Flash, and LL Cool J and the world is filled with cars the size of ocean liners, arcade machines and roller disco. It’s like the film is screaming “The 80s were a simpler time! Remember the 80s?” at you.

“White Boy Rick” looks as if it were done by professionals but the script feels like it was written by a film student. The protagonist is too dull and flat for the audience to feel anything, bringing down what could be a great viewing experience. With all of the stories that have ever been and could ever be told, it’s a shame Hollywood is stuck on the 1980s to tell its stories.

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