Blame It on the Night

Reviewed By brianorndorf
Posted 07/01/11 22:20:00

"Rock Dad to the Rescue"
2 stars (Pretty Bad)

A domestic drama from 1984, “Blame It on the Night” is a perfectly functional tearjerker that rarely satisfies. Perhaps more interested in selling soundtracks than emotions, the picture is a vague offering of thoughtful human interaction, though supported by satisfying performances and a snapshot of MTV-fueled rock stardom in the mid-1980s. A magical time when a 37-year-old man with a mild perm could make an arena of teenage girls swoon.

A music superstar in the midst of a taxing tour schedule, Chris Dalton (Nick Mancuso) is forced into parenthood when the mother of his teenage son, a boy he’s never met, has died. Happily tucked away at military school, Job (Byron Thames) is irritated when he’s pulled out of his comfortable routine to join Chris on the road, with the rocker hoping to fill a hole in his soul by establishing a relationship with this young stranger. Polar opposites, the two begin to warm up to each other as the weeks pass, with Job relinquishing control and Chris encountering responsibility for first time in his life.

Perhaps most famous for its Mick Jagger’s story credit (Len Jenkin scripts), “Blame It on the Night” is a television movie in search of something cinematic to propel its feeble dramatics. The world of rock stardom offers director Gene Taft (his only picture) a comfortable shot at scope, staging a series of musical performances that highlight a sweaty Mancuso proudly prowling the stage as Chris, embodying an Eddie Money-type character who merges soulful, confessional lyrics with arena rock thunder (though he only seems to tour around Arizona). The vocals and “stage concepts” are credited to “Jesus Christ Superstar” actor Ted Neely, who provides decent theatricality, giving Taft something to photograph.

Music dominates “Blame It on the Night,” eating up a considerable chunk of the picture’s 80-minute run time. Tunes are plastered everywhere (not just from stage performances), looking to infuse the with a sonic identity that might encourage plenty of record sales, even welcoming a cameo from MTV VJ Mark Goodman to help hip up the room. What’s lost in the swirl of rock therapy is the intimate connection between Chris and Job, who resemble screenwriting clichés, not authentically yearning individuals searching to connect as family. The movie makes a few melodramatic attempts to study the father/son dynamic, observing Chris and his frustration with Job’s tough military exterior, but there’s not enough vulnerability to penetrate, despite a hearty, flared-nostril performance from Mancuso, who at least gives off the impression that he believes in the script.

“Blame It on the Night” is a hopelessly distracted film, not only with music business shenanigans (e.g. bar fights, hotel parties, wacky band members named Animal), but there’s also a largely useless mid-movie softball match that drags on forever. The feature lacks focus and understanding, clutching surface details to supply substance when a concentration of personality would’ve propelled the concept further. Though it rarely bores, it’s hardly significant, with other films cut from the same cloth displaying far more insight. However, those pictures don’t have Mancuso in full rock god swagger, a gold-chain-and-leather-pant spectacle that's almost enough to recommend a viewing.

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