Cocktail (1988) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

How did it happen? A fairly solid assembly of talent resulted in a movie which was the low point of almost everyone's career.

IMDb lists 25 films in which Tom Cruise has had a starring role. Only one is rated below Cocktail and, to be honest, while Losin' It is not as slick a production as Cocktail, it is actually a lot more entertaining.

  1. (8.19) - Minority Report (2002)
  2. (8.00) - Magnolia (1999)
  3. (7.80) - Rain Man (1988)
  4. (7.50) - Few Good Men, A (1992)
  5. (7.35) - Space Station (2002)
  6. (7.30) - Jerry Maguire (1996)
  7. (7.10) - Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
  8. (7.00) - Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles (1994)
  9. (7.00) - Vanilla Sky (2001)
  10. (6.89) - Born on the Fourth of July (1989)
  11. (6.79) - Color of Money, The (1986)
  12. (6.79) - Outsiders, The (1983)
  13. (6.70) - Risky Business (1983)
  14. (6.60) - Firm, The (1993)
  15. (6.50) - Mission: Impossible (1996)
  16. (6.40) - Top Gun (1986)
  17. (6.40) - Young Guns (1988)
  18. (6.30) - Taps (1981)
  19. (6.20) - Far and Away (1992)
  20. (6.00) - Legend (1985)
  21. (5.90) - Mission: Impossible II (2000)
  22. (5.72) - All the Right Moves (1983)
  23. (5.31) - Days of Thunder (1990)
  24. (5.11) - Cocktail (1988)
  25. (4.52) - Losin' It (1983)

The director, Roger Donaldson, has had his share of successes, as well as some failures, but Cocktail is on the bottom of his list.

  1. (7.49) - Thirteen Days (2000)
  2. (6.99) - No Way Out (1987)
  3. (6.68) - Bounty, The (1984)
  4. (6.37) - Smash Palace (1981)
  5. (6.29) - Marie (1985)
  6. (5.72) - White Sands (1992)
  7. (5.60) - Dante's Peak (1997)
  8. (5.51) - Getaway, The (1994)
  9. (5.40) - Species (1995)
  10. (5.22) - Cadillac Man (1990)
  11. (5.13) - Sleeping Dogs (1977)
  12. (5.11) - Cocktail (1988)

The screenwriter, Heywood Gould, is the weakest link, but Cocktail is very close to the bottom of his list as well.

  1. (6.67) - Boys from Brazil, The (1978)
  2. (6.15) - Fort Apache the Bronx (1981)
  3. (5.84) - Rolling Thunder (1977)
  4. (5.63) - Streets of Gold (1986)
  5. (5.52) - Double Bang (2001)
  6. (5.52) - One Good Cop (1991)
  7. (5.11) - Cocktail (1988)
  8. (5.02) - Trial by Jury (1994)

I saw Cocktail on cable TV about a year after it first came out. I watched it again in 2002, about 13 years later, and before I popped it into the DVD player, I searched my memory for my remaining impressions from the earlier viewing. All I could remember was (1) that it featured Cruise and Bryan Brown doing some very fancy choreographed bartending, and (2) that the film's score helped to drive a Beach Boys comeback by using "Kokomo" on the soundtrack.

I'm writing this about twelve hours after rewatching it, and I still don't remember too much more that that.

On the positive side, it has an enjoyable soundtrack album, featuring much more than "Kokomo", including some fun reggae. On the negative side, everything else. All the characters are superficially presented and thinly drawn, even the leads.


Even the nudity is a rip-off in this film. It is as undeveloped as everything else. Gina Gershon barely shows a single nipple in almost complete darkness, despite the fact that she and Cruise make energetic and prolonged whoopee. Elisabeth Shue goes skinny dipping, but shows nary a nipple. The only thing approaching nudity involves Kelly Lynch's very impressive bottom in some microscopic bikinis.

DVD info from Amazon

  • widescreen anamorphic, 1.85:1

The storyline? Well, let me just tell you a couple of details which will reveal the quality and originality of the script. Cruise plays a guy on the make for riches. In the course of this pursuit, he humiliated his true love by sneaking off one night with an heiress, just to win a bet. His true love saw him leave with the heiress, and flew the coop.

These next two details should tell you everything you need to know:

1. The woman he dumps, his true love, turns out to be the richest woman in the history of the universe. She never told him so she could be loved "for herself".

2. When the ol' Cruiser shows up at her Park Avenue penthouse one day, hoping to win her back, her dad tries to bribe him to go away. 


Cocktail (1988) is one of those films everybody points to as an example of a bad movie. Despite beauty (Elisabeth Shue, Gina Gershon, Kelly Lynch) and Bryan Brown, charmingly playing himself as a lovable bad guy, some interesting sets, and a picturesque Jamaica location for part of the film, I found it totally forgettable after the first time I saw it, and got to rediscover why it was bad all over again today. The story is a little trite, but no more so than many films I enjoy more. To me, the reason was Tom Cruise with his little boy smile. At the start of the film, he was supposed to be hungry and ambitious. He was neither.

For those who, like me, mercifully forgot the plot, Cruise gets out of the Army and goes to New York to get rich in business. He discovers that you can't land a power job with no credentials of any kind, and takes a job tending bar with Bryan Brown. Brown teaches him the ropes, and both dream of opening their own bar and getting rich. Brown wants to marry money, Cruise doesn't care how he gets it. They fight over a woman, and Cruise goes to Jamaica for low cost of living and high pay. That is where he manages to meet, fall in love with, bed, and chase away Elizabeth Shue all in a few days. That should be enough to refresh your memory.

Shue shows most of her left breast in a sex in the river scene. Gershon shows the profile of a nipple in bed with Cruise, and Kelly Lynch as Brown's wife/benefactor, shows buns in two different butt-floss type swimsuits. .

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: two stars. Ebert 2/4, 2.5/5

  • won the Razzies for worst picture and worst screenplay, also nominated for worst actor and worst director.

The People Vote ...

  • with their dollars:  it was a solid second-tier hit, grossing $78 million in the USA


IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a D. (Tuna: I suppose the genre is Romantic Comedy, and this is not a good one. D.)

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