The Film: Pure Country (1992)
The Principals: Director: Christopher Cain. George Strait, Lesley Ann Warren, Isabel Glasser, Kyle Chandler, John Doe, Rory Calhoun.
The Premise: A bored country music star, Dusty Chandler (Strait), leaves his glitzy showbiz life behind to try to reconnect with his roots. He shaves his beard and trademark ponytail and abruptly departs a planned concert at the eleventh hour. Left in a lurch, his manager, Lula (Warren) has to go with a risky plan to have a weaselly roadie, Buddy Jackson (Chandler), sub for Dusty, using dim lights, smoke and taped recordings to hoodwink the fans at the concert. Dusty enjoys the simple life as an anonymous good ole boy and falls in love with a local rodeo rider, Harley (Glasser), whose family is struggling to save their farm. But when Buddy starts to get delusions of grandeur and threatens to out Dusty for abandoning his fans, Dusty has to eventually reclaim his old life. But does he have to leave behind the new life – and Harley – to do so?
Is It Good: Pure Country was an anachronism for me. Back in 1992, I was working in a movie theatre during summers and holidays while in college. Pure Country came out as a starring vehicle for Strait and it was dogshit. The script was laughable and cliched, and Strait was a block of wood in a cowboy hat – only minus the charisma. I don’t know what it was, and I don’t know why, but I felt myself drawn to slip into the theatre to watch it when I was working as an usher. The only thing I can even remotely think of was that maybe, on some subconscious level, I was enjoying how bad it was. Maybe it was because I found something interesting in co-star Isabel Glasser. Glasser has had a fairly minor league career, but at this particular time, she had a twofer of this film and Forever Young going on for herself. She did look nice in cowboy boots and a miniskirt, and also had a quite attractive smile. I haven’t seen her in anything since, but I just remember her from these two films.
But really, there isn’t anything that isn’t humorously awful about this movie. Lesley Ann Warren almost looked embarrassed to be in it. The entire film is predicated on two things: that no one in a town populated by country folk will recognize Dusty after a shave and a haircut; and that a roadie could pinch hit one of the biggest stars in the world with some bad lighting and a smokescreen. If you can disbelieve that, then you ‘ll probably be able to accept Strait’s complete inability to convey an emotion, a feeling or a notion. If there were a Fathead of him slapped on an stiff piece of cardboard that could stand upright, it would have been just as effective. The script is sub-Movie of the Week kind of stuff about trying to rediscover the simple life and salt of the earth rodeo folk trying to save their home.
Strait was at the height of his career, having won a pair of Entertainer of the Year honors just a couple of years before, but even his fans didn’t come out for this movie. It’s little wonder that he’s barely returned to the screen since. Although he has recently done Pure Country 2, which couldn’t even be bothered to be associated with the original.
Is It Worth A Look: Hardly.
Random Anecdotes: The movie may have tanked, but the soundtrack was a big hit for Strait.
Cinematic Soulmates: Country Strong, Pure Country 2.