Film: "Pure Country"
Stars: George Strait, Lesley Ann Warren and Isabel Glasser
Theaters: Movies 8, Eastland Southroads, Cinema 8 (Broken
Arrow, Sand Springs)
Rating: R (mild violence and mild profanity)
Quality: TWO 1/2 STARS (on a scale of zero to four stars)
"Pure Country," the first movie to star country superstar
George Strait, is as full of comfortable cliches, traditional
values and unabashed sentimentality as a double-album set
of country-music golden oldies.
It's aimed not only for the heart, but for the heartland
as well, that area between the coasts that's less cosmopolitan,
less cynical and more willing to not only accept, but be
satisfied by, a simple, sentimental and old-fashioned story
like this one.
Strait plays a bearded, ponytailed country superstar named
Dusty, who's a slightly seedier version of Strait himself.
Dusty's at the top of his game, selling out giant venues
with his state-of-the-art stage show.
But Dusty's not happy. As he tells his longtime manager,
Lula (Lesley Ann Warren), "I'm tired. I'm tired of all
the smoke and the lights. It ain't me."
Then he has a conversation with another long-term chum,
Earl (John Doe), his band's drummer. They reminisce about
going to a carnival and seeing a dancing chicken, who danced
because his owner heated up the stage floor.
"Wonder why that ol' chicken just didn't jump off the stage?"
asks Earl, and the Metaphor of the Dancing Chicken makes
its impression on Dusty, who takes a walk and ends up back
on the Texas plains, where he runs into a beautiful young
cowgirl (Isabel Glasser) and her family (led by a cadaverous-looking
Rory Calhoun, who turns in one of the movie's finest acting
Meanwhile, the show must go on, and when showtime comes
and there's no Dusty, Lula is forced to take drastic measures.
These two storylines weave along until they're brought together,
satisfactorily and sentimentally, at film's end.
The idea of the star (or heiress, or prince, or whatever)
wandering away from an exalted position to mingle with the
ordinary folks is hardly a new one in movies. It's an idea,
though, that lends itself especially well to country music,
where it's de rigeur for even the biggest star to continually
acknowledge his roots.
And while acting honors here go to Calhoun, Warren and,
interestingly enough, Doe (a former member of the famed
punk band X), Strait isn't half bad. In fact, he allows
his on-screen persona a smattering of vulnerability and
just a touch of goofiness in with all the prairie cool.
First-time screenwriter Rex McGee hasn't done anything very
original here, and the direction of Christopher Cain ("Young
Guns," "That Was Then, This Is Now") can get pretty poky
from time to time. But Strait and Glasser are an engaging
couple, the music (including a couple of tunes from that
great eclectic ensemble, the Cactus Brothers) is good, and
there's a comforting old-fashioned feeling to the whole
You always know that you're being manipulated by "Pure
Country," and you're usually pretty sure what's going to
happen next. Still, chances are fairly good you'll leave
the theater smiling when it's over, humming one of the sentimental
songs this slight, warm little movie leaves in your heart.