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Paramount Studios presents
That Was Then... This is Now (1985)

Mark Jennings: I think I finally decided what I want to be when I grow up.
Mrs. Douglas: What's that?
Mark Jennings: Rich.
Mrs. Douglas: Well, it's expensive.

- Emilio Estevez, Barbara Babcock

Review By: Brian Calhoun   
Published: February 19, 2004

Stars: Craig Sheffer, Emilio Estevez, Kim Delaney
Other Stars: Morgan Freeman
Director: Christopher Cain

MPAA Rating: R for language, violence
Run Time: 01h:41m:51s
Release Date: October 14, 2003
UPC: 097360195446
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C- C-A-B+ D-

DVD Review

That Was Then... This is Now is a 1980s spectacular! Well—maybe not spectacular, but it certainly is a valid demonstration of how cheesy the decade was. I tried to remain objective while watching this film, concentrating on critiquing the story rather than passing judgment on the silly clothing and hairstyles. However, these are the only interesting elements of That Was Then. To say the movie has not aged well would be an understatement, but a modernized version of this film would not bode well either. It all comes down to story, and this is where That Was Then falters the most.

That Was Then... This is Now is an adaptation of the novel by author S.E. Hinton. The film tells the story of Bryon (Craig Sheffer) and Mark (Emilio Estevez), two high school students who, though not blood related, have grown up as brothers in a rough neighborhood. In their senior year, the shadow of adulthood looms over the troubled teens, and they find themselves challenged by the future that they will inevitably have to face. Bryon, the more intelligent of the two boys, understands that his ascent into manhood will most likely mean shedding his delinquent ways. He finds solace in his new girlfriend, Cathy (Kim Delaney), while Mark ignores the prospects of his future and becomes caught up in violent behavior and drug deals. Mark's immaturity and alienation from Bryon finds him becoming increasingly drawn towards a life of crime.

That Was Then is far from terrible. Quite the contrary, it often shows potential thanks to interesting cinematography and good performances by Emilio Estevez and Morgan Freeman. Nevertheless, the sum of its parts is a great disappointment due to Estevez's thin screenplay and Christopher Cain's weak direction. The story is the type of coming of age drama that relies on strong characters, yet the characters are uninteresting and undeveloped. Much of the film plays like an ABC After School Special, particularly the laughable drug overdose scene. The filmmakers had noble intentions in their attempt to convey a lesson about the dangers of hostile youth, but in the end, they surrender to the fact that they have no idea what it is that they are trying to say. Never is this more apparent than the absurd ending, which takes their message and destroys its integrity to the point of travesty. What we are left with is a jumbled film that ultimately serves no purpose.

Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: C-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The 1.85:1 anamorphic image transfer is quite impressive. The picture looks its age due to heavy film grain, muted colors, and somewhat dingy blacks, but it lacks many of the deficiencies one might expect from a video based transfer. This is a top notch remastering effort that holds its own with many more recent transfers.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: A remastered Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is offered, and it is quite good. While surround presence is virtually non-existent, the front soundstage exhibits wide stereo separation, particularly with the music. Much of the soundtrack is mono-centric, with dialogue locked front and center and the music breathing expansively throughout the main channels. Fidelity is much better than I had expected. However, I did detect certain anomalies that I have come to expect from aged soundtracks, such as anemic dialogue, as well as a faint underlying buzz during quiet scenes. Bass is tame by current standards, but provides the right amount of punch with the music.

The original 2.0 soundtrack is also offered, and I noticed few differences between the two tracks. The main difference is that the 5.1 track is more expansive, if only across the front soundstage.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 18 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Packaging: Nexpak
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The only offerings are static menus and English subtitles.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

Perhaps a more suitable title for That Was Then... This is Now would simply be "That Was Then". Devoid of a good story, all it truly offers is 1980s nostalgia, which is not enough to provide quality entertainment.


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