“Cruise” is a coming-of-age melodrama seemingly displaced in time.
It’s a car culture summer romance built around transportation, sex and petty theft and set to the soundtrack of what’s playing on everybody’s car radio — an “American Graffiti” parked in Flushing and Whitestone, Queens, in the late 1980s.
This Cuisinart collection of bits from “Diner” and “Graffiti” and “Saturday Night Fever” and what-have-you never quite gels, for reasons to do with its derivative narrative and those performing it — and one reason that’s as obvious as the setting.
Who out there is nostalgic for say, the Chevy Chevette or anything else of the boxy era in American and international (VW Cabriolet, anyone?) motoring?
Gio, played by Spencer Boldman of TV’s “Lab Rats,” is a “greaser” in all but name. He wears his hair in some faux 1950s pompadour and leaves his spotless white Ts in their packages until he’s ready to take them out, iron them and head out for the evening’s “cruise” around Flushing and environs.
He’s got his “boys” and “the routine” — a cruise past the regular haunts, a drag race out on the edge of the Long Island suburbs, hit the diner and call it a night.
Unless one of the local lasses can talk him into a little parking lot sex in his rare, pricey (even then) turbo-charged Buick GNX.
All that changes when he spies the girl who calls herself Francesca (Emily Ratajkowski) with her girls in her Cabriolet. Catching up with her at the Carvel brings out his best “guido” pick-up line.
“That is one…lucky cone!”
Thus does a summer romance blossom between the auto parts store clerk and the college girl who, it turns out, is no “Francesca” at all, but Jessica Weinberg from the high rent district across the Long Island tracks. She’s “slumming,” he figures, although he doesn’t connect those dots right away.
Gio gets to play “your Italian stallion” showing off “The Carvel Crowd,” “The Guidos,” “Bon Jovi Chicks” and “The Nicks” and their various burger, ice cream and baklava hangouts to the college girl.
But while she kept her name and background a secret, just for a bit, Gio’s keeping a bigger one. He and his pal (Lucas Salvagno) like to boost car radios, back when that was a thing, for extra income. They’re experts at it and they never get caught.
So he’s a bad boy? Catnip to the ladies, or this particular one.
Writer-director Robert Siegel might be drawing on his own memories of the place and the era, but he’s built his script out of cliches and stereotypes and his soundtrack out of Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam, Stacey Q (“Two of Hearts”) and what the “cool kids/college kids” were listening to — New Order.
Gio’s thick-accented dad gives him, “Gio, you gotta thinka the FUTURE,” the local cops ride him for disconnecting his catalytic converter — “I could hear you in FLUSHING!” — and Gio starts to look at the world’s broader horizons thanks to dating the somewhat rich college girl.
He still hits the diner. But he wants to “look at the MENU” now. His synth-pop soundtrack is really shaken when she turns him on to New Order.
Boldman can’t do much to lift Gio out of the stereotype he seems to be when we first meet him. Ratajkowski, still most famous as the nude dancing model/lust object of the music video to “Blurred Lines,” can’t do much with Jennifer other than make her alluring.
The relationship allows “compatibility” questions to pop up, which Siegel either ignores or gives us the most trite and true answers to.
And the extremely melodramatic third act (robbing “the wrong car”) doesn’t fundamentally improve or even alter the course of this well-worn “Cruise” down streets and narrative byways we’ve traveled many times before.
MPAA Rating: unrated, violence, drugs, sex, profanity, theft
Cast: Emily Ratajkowski, Spencer Boldman, Noah Robbins
Credits: Written and directed by Robert Siegel A Vertical release.
Running time: 1:30