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For, Friday, Feb. 12, 2016

EDITOR’S NOTE: ‘Tucker: The Man and His Dream’ is not a new DVD release; it’s just a forgotten movie directed by Francis Ford Coppola that deserves to be seen, and it’s out there. So rent, buy or find an online stream and enjoy. This is my Aug. 12, 1988, Deseret News review.

“Tucker” is the story of a man who dreamed about building a better mousetrap – or more correctly, a better automobile. He wanted a car that would be safer, more economical and more roadworthy, designed on the principal of aerodynamics. Or, as he billed it, “The Car of Tomorrow – Today.”

Not content simply to dream, however, he designed his Tucker Torpedo and built it himself, with a few friends, in a barn on his own property.

The story is true, to one degree or another, and the car that Preston Tucker created in the mid-1940s still exists – an epilogue explains that 46 of 50 cars he manufactured are still in use today.

If the film is to be believed, it was indeed a better car than Detroit was turning out – and for that reason, Detroit did not want the competition. So, through their powerful political connections, the Detroit companies forced Tucker out of business before he could begin mass production.


      Jeff Bridges, 'Tucker: The Man and His Dream'

Though the film is subtitled “The Man and His Dream,” director Francis Ford Coppola seems more interested in the dream than the man. Jeff Bridges is excellent as “Tucker,” whose innovations included seat belts, padded dash, pop-out windows, disc brakes and fuel injection – in the mid-1940s.

But the concentration is on Tucker being told his ideas aren’t practical while he prepares to go ahead with them anyway. And then on the pressure and eventual criminal charges leveled against him by the powers that be.

You might think that Coppola’s outrage at a man’s dreams being stalled would make for a downbeat, bitter film. But he has instead chosen a very sunny approach, showing Tucker as an eternal optimist to whom the dream is as important as the reality.

Fortunately for Tucker, he has a loyal workforce of friends – Frederic Forrest, Mako – and a very understanding and loving wife (Joan Allen). They are all family, working toward their goals together. Coppola has directed the film very stylishly (love those telephone conversations – theatrical, but nice), leaping off as a promotional film for Tucker’s company, and returning to that format from time to time. The period is superbly recreated and there are many nice touches in the script.


There are also a number of fine performances that are somewhat unexpected – Dean Stockwell as Howard Hughes, Lloyd Bridges (Jeff’s Dad, of course) as the evil senator from Detroit. But the real surprise is Martin Landau. After years of being stuck in sleazy character roles in even more sleazy exploitation films, Landau proves he has spent too much time as an unused talent. He’s great as the lonely Jewish accountant with a shady past who becomes a part of the Tucker “family.”

“Tucker” is a fine, showy turn from a director who probably identifies with his lead character more than he realizes. And both come out smelling like roses.

“Tucker” is rated PG for a profanity or two.