Saturday, October 03, 2020

Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988)

I suppose nostalgia has its place.  We look back at something and think it was better than it was.  I vaguely remember seeing Tucker: The Man and His Dream when it first came out or shortly thereafter.  Basically, my memory consisted of it staring Jeff Bridges as Preston Tucker and that it was about a failed car company.  I’m thinking now that it should have been left at that.

The movie follows Preston Tucker roughly during the time that he produced his namesake cars.  He had previously made vehicles for the military and thought that he could carry over that experience into making automobiles.  He wanted to introduce a lot of safety features, like seatbelts.

The problem was that it was more difficult to actually build a prototype than he figured.  He also had the established companies to contend with, who thought that seatbelts implied that existing cars were unsafe.  When problems within the company start to mount, Tucker realizes that attaining his dream, in its original form, is going to be next to impossible.  He does manage to make an original run of 50 cars, but it ends there.  Only 51 cars, including that prototype, were ever made.

There’s an aspect of the movie that comes across as hero worship.  Tucker does lash out in anger at times, but seems to be more idealistic than business-oriented.  It’s not unheard of for movies to take liberties with details, which would make one wonder what Tucker was really like.

The main theme would seem to be David versus Goliath, but the movie focuses entirely on the little guy.  The Detroit automakers are an ambiguous, unseen antagonist that only exists to keep Tucker down.  Every time Tucker makes progress, an ally or friend bows to pressure.  Tucker keeps going until he’s run out of options.  (Even then, he’s not defeated.  He decides, instead, to try his hand with refrigerators.)

I will say that the movie did keep up a decent pace.  There wasn’t anything about the movie that was slow or unnecessary.  However, there is a glossed-over feel to the movie.  It was lacking any personal depth.  It seemed more like a two-hour commercial than a dramatic movie.

I do think there is a story to be told in the little guy taking on a tightly controlled industry like that.  It’s a shame that Tucker was put out of business, but it seems like there should have been more to the story.  It seems like the kind of movie where people who were there would probably offer up additional details about the story.  I’m not saying this to disparage the person or the company.  It’s more of a feeling that something was probably left out.

 IMDb page


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