The Sure Thing is one of the early works of both director Rob Reiner and young teen star John Cusack, and it proved to be a success for both parties. In the film Walter Gibson and his friend Lance are heading off to college. Gib is heading to a stuffy school on the East Coast, while Lance is venturing off to the sun-soaked southern California shores with the female prospects at an all time high. It doesn’t help Gib who has recently been striking out with the opposite sex, because, to put it bluntly, they don’t buy his astronomy inspired pick-up lines. He’s just too much of a jerk.
And so the two friends go off to their separate spheres and for Gib things do not end up too bad. His school’s not a bore, but he’s not getting the kind of action Lance has, not yet. That is until his friend tells him about a “sure thing.” The girl who is one out of a million and who is available, just waiting for Gib in California. So as any red-blooded American college student would do, Gib begins the cross country trek over his Christmas Break.
The catch is this. He’s forced to travel with an overly enthusiastic couple obsessed with singing show tunes and that’s not the worst of it. His backseat companion is fellow classmate Alison Bradbury (Daphne Zuniga) who happens to be very attractive, but she also hates his guts.
She and Gib happen to be polar opposites, and they did not get off to a good start at school. She already has a boyfriend. She is always on top of her academics, and she never does anything outrageous. Gib is a showboat, prone to wildness that includes shotgunning beers and trying to pick up girls.
Their constant bickering and nagging finds them sitting on the roadside in the middle of nowhere trying to thumb their way to California. And so it looks like they will go their separate ways, but they end up traveling together, broke, wet, and starving. Somehow they get there and along the way they begin to genuinely appreciate each other. There does not have to be anything between them. Of course, right before they get to their final destination a disagreement leaves them at odds. However, after spending so much time with someone like Alison, a sure thing just does not have the appeal it once did for Gib. He proves to himself that’s he’s not quite as shallow as he thought he was. If only Alison could know that.
The enjoyment of this film is not so much in discovering the result, because any Joe Schmoe who has seen at least a handful of romantic comedies knows how the story is supposed to end. The true joy in the experience is how we arrive there with these two characters. In the back of our minds, there is a kind of peace of mind, because although they seem so far apart and at odds, we know where they will end up. We can take a little bit of enjoyment out of every single moment they spend together mundane or not. In many ways, the road movie feel of The Sure Thing brought to mind other similar story lines like Train, Plains, and Automobiles as well as It Happened One Night. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by this film. Cusack pulls off the lovable jerk well and despite her initial stuffiness Daphne Zuniga is a lot of fun too.