I have fond memories of the neglected gem Sneakers, with Robert Redford as the leader of a ragtag group of quirky geniuses, written and directed by Phil Alden Robinson, who wrote “Field of Dreams.” This has some of the same off-beat idealism and some endearing performances by Dan Aykroyd, Mary McDonnell, Sidney Poitier, David Strathairn, and the late River Phoenix. Reading Slate Magazine’s 20th anniversary appreciation is pure pleasure.
“[I]t’s action-packed without being too violent, and smart without taking itself too seriously,” says John Swansburg. It’s a little bit “Mission: Impossible” (the TV series about the ragtag group of quirky geniuses, not the movie series about Tom Cruise and stunts), a little bit “Kukla, Fran, and Ollie” (an oddball assortment who become an adorably dysfunctionally functional family) and a little bit “Our Gang” with Mary McDonnell as Darla.
More important, as Swansburg and his colleagues point out, is is sharply, even surprisingly prescient.
Though much of its technology looks hopelessly dated 20 years on—motion sensors! voice activation! pleated pants!—the movie was spot-on in its prediction of how a computer-connected world would change the nature, and wages, of power. As Cosmo tells Marty: “It’s not about who has the most bullets, it’s about who controls the information: What we see and hear, how we work, what we think. It’s all about the information.”
I enjoyed all of the commentary, especially the recollections of making the movie by co-star Stephen Tobolowsky (best remembered as the obnoxious insurance salesman from “Groundhog Day”). But the most fun was this story about how the movie inspired a uniform badge for a real-life US spy office.