Used Cars (USA, 1980, Robet Zemeckis)
Director/writer Robert Zemeckis works with much of the same team that contributed to Steven Spielberg's bloated bomb 1941, as well as Zemeckis' own charming and wacky directorial debut I Wanna Hold Your Hand to produce Used Cars, a low-brow comedy boasting easy targets (used car salesmen) and irresistibly attractive cruelty.
Kurt Russell gives a deliriously wicked turn as an amoral Willy Loman who goes to work for a dealership run by the blandly decent and commercially unsuccessful Jack Warden, who clearly has a blast playing this part as well as that of hi chief competitor, his own devious twin brother. In a full out War of the Wardens, Used Cars is a gloves-off affair that leaves few wonderully tasteless and cynical gags untouched.
The film's incessant assault on its characters and their perverse quest for the American Holy Grail (money and power) has the pacing and energy of a 1930's zany screwball comedy, but is much darker in spirit. Russell, in a stunning break from his youthful Disney roles, epitomizes the archetypal unscrupulous salesman who will stop at nothing to rip off his customers and crush the competition. The entire cast, many of whom were plucked from such 1960's and '70's schlock as The Munsters, Laverne and Shirley, and The Gong Show, appear to be enjoying themselves immensely as they cavort through this ridiculously obnoxious material.
The anger at the heart of the humor, as well as the broadness of the comedy combined to limit the film's audience. Zemeckis, however, was able to springboard from Used Cars to the kinder, gentler Indiana Jones homage Romancing the Stone, the wildly successful Back to the Future trilogy, and, eventually, to the Oscar-winning and wildly overpraised Forrest Gump.