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USA 1998
Directed by
Francis Ford Coppola
111 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Tucker: The Man And His Dream

Tucker: The Man And His Dream is based on the true story of Preston Tucker (Jeff Bridges) a visionary inventor who built a car in the late 1940s that was way ahead of its time and was crushed by the wealth and political power of the Big Three of the car industry.

Despite the fact that Coppola, whose own Zoetrope Studio was the filmic equivalent to Tucker's home-based factory, identified so closely with the project he did not get it to work and film, which bombed at the box office,  represented yet another stage in his declining fortunes through the 1980s.

Although a meticulous effort from Coppola’s regular collaborators, production designer Dean Tavoularis  and cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, the film is all surface and no depth with an unremittingly forced tone to the film, spearheaded by an atypically ebullient performance from Bridges as the tireless optimist  Tucker, that robs it of any sense of realism, which, after all, is where the real pay-dirt lies.  Instead Coppola’s Tucker ends up being a two-dimensional Hollywood contrivance complete with a rousing Capra-esque courtroom soliloquy on the American Dream and a happy ending.  

The cars look fabulous (50 were built and Coppola, who owned one of them, seems to have managed to wrangled most of the survivors for his film) although it is far from clear how a mere handful of people (one being Tucker’s son played by a young Christian Slater to whom the camera pays undue attention) managed to do this.  

Disappointingly conventional as it may be compared to Coppola’s high-water films, Tucker: The Man And His Dream is still evidently the work of a skilled director.

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