Echo Park (1986) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

Tom Hulce is the guy who played Mozart in Amadeus, a film loved by critics, film buffs, and the academy. It was also a box office success, and is now considered #71 of all time at IMDb.  Hulce himself was nominated as Best Actor, and might have won if not for an even better portrayal in the same film by F. Murray Abraham as Salieri. 


Susan Dey exposed her breasts three times: two strip scenes and a sex scene. 
Hulce wasn't able to do anything with his temporary success. His triumph didn't have the expected results, scripts didn't fall into his lap, and his next theatrical film was this mediocrity about a neighborhood of LA where everyone is trying to be a star. 

Neither a dashing leading man nor an offbeat character actor, Hulce continues to be one of the perfect "everyman" actors, but these roles are not so common in Hollywood, where simple, real films are rarely seen. When those roles do come around, they now go to younger guys like Cusack and Broderick, so the multi-talented Hulce has never again attained the commercial or artistic successes of his earlier career. 

This particular film seems to be a sitcom pilot, and is kind of cute, about equal in quality to a good episode of "Friends".

  • Hulce is a pizza boy trying to write songs. (By the way, he sings a few bars here and there, and is terrific. He sounds like a white version of Peabo Bryson! As you may know, he was Disney's singing Quasimodo, and will reprise his role in Hunchback of Notre Dame 2, which is scheduled to come out in a few months.)
  • Susan Dey is a bartender trying to be an actress. She gets part of the way there by doing stripping telegrams.
  • Their best friend works as a personal trainer, but just knows he will be the next Schwarzenegger.

That's about all there is to it except corny speeches about not abandoning your dreams.

Hulce seemed like he was in a different movie from the rest of the cast. He was actually trying to create a meaningful characterization, reaching for the soul of his role, like the dedicated stage actor that he is, but the rest of the cast apparently really did think they were in a sitcom, playing everything for broad yucks accompanied by "Gilligan pulled another boner" music, and so the movie has that sitcom feel.


Tuna's comments in yellow. 

People who did not have the fortune (some say good, some say bad) to have lived in LA county seem to have trouble with romantic comedies set there. The culture in LALA land is outside most people's experience. Perhaps this will help. When I was first married, we lived in an apartment in an older neighborhood in Long Beach, comprising mostly retired people (original owners of their houses) and students, most of whom attended nearby CSULB. The neighborhood was known as Redondo Heights. One woman in our complex was in her late 40s or early 50s, was a piano major at a local junior college, and looked different. I am not sure if it was her orange hair with green roots, or her habit of a morning jog wearing men's boxer shorts and a pajama top that caught our attention, but she was known to the rest of us as crazy Louise. The incident that stands out most in my mind is the day I saw her on her hands and knees crawling after a litter of kittens, saluting them, and calling them sir. Now here comes the important part -- she was within the boundaries of normal by LA standards.

People in much of the country define themselves in terms of their occupation (I am a third generation plumber), their marital status (I am a  husband and father of three), or their hobbies (I am a serious bowler).  People in LA define themselves in terms of their dreams. I want to be an actor; I write poetry, and hope to be published; I work as an extra, hoping I will be discovered; someday, I will own my own house. This is the case with the major characters in Echo Park. Susan Dey is a single mother who works as a bartender, and wannabe actress. Her next door neighbor is an Austrian body sculptor and personal trainer who wants to be the next  Arnold, and Tom Hulce is a pizza delivery boy who dreams of being a songwriter. He moves in with Dey and her son Henry when Dey needs the extra cash. He is clearly smitten with Dey, but, as Dey assures her son who tells her not to do it with him, "Don't worry, he is not the type I sleep with ... he is nice." She sleeps with Michel Bowen, but only for the sex. 

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 1.85:1, and a full screen version

  • no meaningful features.

Things pick up a little when she gets her first show business break as a stripping telegram. This is not really a film where much happens, but rather a low key character driven piece about these unlikely friends going about the daily business of surviving, and not giving up their dreams. While there are a few belly laughs, I spent most of the film just grinning broadly. Dey showed her breasts three times briefly, and walked around in underwear a lot. Hulce did a great job, as did John Paragon as the strippers promoter.  Watch for Cheech Marin stepping out of his usual persona as the owner of a health club, and Cassandra Peterson (better known as Elvira) as his receptionist. Echo Park is not for everyone, and is probably a C, but I enjoyed it very much. The DVD transfer is not bad at all.

The Critics Vote

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 5.0 
  • With their dollars ... it grossed only $701,000
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 C-. About the same quality as an OK but unsuccessful sitcom pilot. (Tuna says C, but enjoyed it) Actually, I enjoyed it, too. It has no special value as a theatrical film, but could be a pleasant way to pass 90 minutes if you like the premise.

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