Stupid movies of my youth; I thought that once I made it to high school, joined a Frat, or got my License to Drive, that I'd be set, and it'd be non-stop partying for the years to come. Of course I quickly realized that wasn't how my teenage years would be; instead it turned into years of bashful awkwardness. But still when I watch those care-free 80's movies, I'm taken back and get a glimmer of that feeling, which is wonderful, even if it's very brief. It had been a long time since I'd seen License to Drive, probably before I got my drivers license, I wasn't sure how it was going to hold up.
The opening scene (see below) where Les, played by Corey Haim at the height of his charisma, is asleep in his drivers-ed class and dreaming about a demonic school bus driver (shades of A Nightmare on Elm St. part 2), a Magnum P.I. Ferrari, and a very young Heather Graham, is most excellently done; with just the right amount of charm and cheesiness, and put together very nicely, with great photography and editing. It reminded me of John Hughes at his peak and gave me hopes that I could enjoy License to Drive on more than a nostalgic level. The rest of the film isn't quite up to par, it'd be tough to keep up that pace, but it is still very entertaining and well done.
Corey Haim and Corey Feldman did a quite a few films together in the 80's and early 90's, I'd say without a doubt that this is their best pairing. (Lost Boys is a better film, but they have a different dynamic.) They were great friends in real life, and that friendship shines through in this film, they play wonderfully off each other making it enjoyable to watch. Maybe I'm biased as a child of the 80's, but it seems there really hasn't been a great teenage actor that could easily carry a film, since that decade. Show me a young actor of the 90's or 00's that can hang with the likes of Corey Haim, Feldman, John Cusack or Anthony Michael Hall. (Maybe Shia LaBeouf?)
Les is determined to get his drivers license, it's the biggest goal of young his life. He believes that once he has it, he can do anything he wants; which includes dating the school's hottie, Mercedes Lane. There's another pretty great driving scene, where Les takes his driver's test with a psychotic DMV employee, who will only pass him if he doesn't spill his piping hot coffee, and proceeds to take him through a series of the toughest driving conditions, and does notably well. Afterwards it comes out that he didn't pass his previous computer quiz, and the brief hold on his license is taken away.
Thinking he'd pass no problem, he's already promised to take his best friends and Mercedes out for a night on the town, so he sneaks the keys to his Grandfather's beloved Cadillac and proceeds to have the kind of night that can happen in movie-land. He and his friends are taken through a chaotic series of events; each one more perilous than the last, with the poor car getting more trashed by the minute. Then through the magic of screen-writing, he's able to redeem himself with another crazy driving scenario, showing his parents all the tricks he learned from the previous night, and they quickly forgive him despite his demolishing their trust. Of course he lands the girl as well.
The film is so very obviously influenced by his style, most directly Ferris Bueller, that I'd say this was the best John Hughes film that he didn't direct. The hair and clothes are very 80's, but I think that the drivers license right-of-passage is such a universal American teen story, and the film is so genuinely funny and well made, that even today's kids would enjoy it. As a look back, it took me to a more innocent time, where a drivers license meant freedom, not going to work or driving the kids somewhere. License to Drive is a classic 80's teenage flick. - Grade: B+