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The Cure
1995 - PG-13 - 97 Mins.
Director: Peter Horton
Producer: Mark Burg
Written By: Robert Kuhn
Starring: Joseph Mazzello, Brad Renfro, Diana Scarwid, Annabella Sciorra
Review by: Harrison Cheung
   
The 1995 film, ‘The Cure’, was directed by TV actor, Peter Horton (‘thirtysomething’). Like the acclaimed 2004 film, ‘Mean Creek’, ‘The Cure’ is a film about young people in difficult situations. The result – from a studio point of view – was a film that struggled to find an audience since ‘The Cure’ was too depressing for teenagers – even though it won a number of film festival and Young Artist Awards and even a Grammy nomination for its soundtrack – and too ‘young’ for grown-ups. Even ‘Mean Creek’ is saddled with an incomprehensible “R” rating which will preclude its best audience.

The story of two small town boys who become best friends over the course of a summer, ‘The Cure’ is like a modern-day rendition of ‘Huckleberry Finn’. Dex, played by ‘Jurassic Park’s Joseph Mazzello, is a slight, pale kid with a big imagination and serious ponderings. His next door neighbor is a latchkey kid, Eric, played with mischevious athletic gusto by Brad Renfro (‘The Client’, ‘Apt Pupil’).

Initially, Eric is warned to stay away from Dex because, Eric’s mother warns, the boy is sick and contagious. But curiosity gets the best of him as he spies on his sullen neighbor through a hole in a fence dividing their yards. The 2 boys become best friends, playing toy soldiers in the yard and going rafting in a nearby river that flows into the Mississippi. For the first part of the movie, ‘The Cure’ is reminiscent of ‘My Dog Skip’ and other children’s movies that wax nostalgic over ideal childhood friendships. But there’s a shadow over this friendship because Dex has AIDS.

As the summer progresses, we see Dex getting sicker and sicker so soon Eric, after watching 'Medicine Man', decides that they need to go on a rafting trip down the river to discover the cure for AIDS. It’s a tricky bit of drama here – not to trivialize the disease and not to make the kids look stupid – but Horton’s gentle approach works and the audience is soon pulled into the boys’ quest.

'The Cure' ends up being like an educational after-school special about people with AIDS - you can't get AIDS from playing with them, from sitting at the dinner table with them, or from going camping. Yes, we know there’s not going to be a happy ending but the main story here is the bond of friendship.

Mazzello is a wonderfully expressive actor; he carries this film. We watch his sad face go through a range of emotions as he comes to terms with his mortality at the age of 11. Renfro is less capable but he's the perfect foil against Mazzello’s sensitivity. He’s well cast as the would-be bully who instead learns something about life and friendship from Dex and Dex’s loving, attentive mother.

Portraying Dex’s mother is the wonderful and underrated Annabella Sciorra (‘Jungle Fever’). Eric’s mother is played by another strong actress, Diana Scarwid (‘Mommie Dearest’). ‘The Cure’ has an interesting structure as both boys are being raised by single-moms, both fierce-willed though Eric’s mom is too busy with night and day jobs while Dex’s mother is doting, overprotective but overjoyed that her son has a friend. In their small town, Dex’s disease is very much cause for rumor and ignorance so Dex had become the neighborhood ‘bogey man’.

Though ‘The Cure’ was unable to find an audience in the theaters, this is still a touching drama that’s worth watching. It’s a smart piece of screenwriting, features memorable performances and is a wonderful story about friendship enduring a modern scourge.
 
Movie Guru Rating
An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater.
  4 out of 5 stars

 
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