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Barking Up Right Tree in 'Dogfight'

September 23, 1993|GREG HERNANDEZ

The rules of "Dogfight" are simple: The Marine who brings the ugliest date to the party wins the jackpot.

It is the early 1960s, and Cpl. Eddie Birdlace (River Phoenix) is spending his last night stateside before embarking on a tour of duty in Vietnam. He frantically runs around town looking for an ugly duckling he hopes can help him walk away with a pocketful of cash.

Then he spots Rose (Lili Taylor), an overweight and frumpy waitress working at the coffee shop, and he thinks he's found the perfect girl for the dogfight. Instead, he finds true love, in this touching and funny movie.

When Rose finds out why she was invited, she calls Birdlace "a cruel, ignorant, inconsiderate creep," belts him and storms out of the party.

But Birdlace knows he's found someone special in Rose and goes back to her place, where he persuades her to go out on a real date with him. "You're different," he tells the honest and idealistic ugly duckling during their life-transforming night together in San Francisco.

The evening turns out to be quite a departure for the young Marine, who had planned to ditch Rose after the dogfight and join his buddies for a night of brawling, drinking, tattooing and X-rated movies.

Birdlace takes Rose to an elegant restaurant that he can barely afford. "My secretary called and made a reservation," the 18-year-old tells the stuffy maitre d' before being turned away because his Windbreaker is not acceptable attire.

We next see the couple in a tailor shop, where they've just awakened the elderly owners.

"It's just been the craziest night," Rose tells the woman. "Eddie's grandfather died, and we don't have appropriate clothes for midnight Mass."

Rose and Birdlace--now wearing a dinner jacket with the price tag still attached--return to the restaurant triumphant.

After dinner, they roam the streets, talking about their dreams. They argue about the Vietnam War, visit an arcade, then drop in on a nightclub--where Rose, an aspiring folk singer, hopes to perform one day--before they spend the night together in Rose's room above the diner.

"Dogfight" (1991), directed by Nancy Savoca. 94 minutes. Rated R.

Orange County Video Rentals

A look at the fast-moving video rentals in four Orange County neighborhoods.

VIDE-O-LYMPIX 8955 Atlanta Ave., Huntington Beach. (714) 536-0568. * Chaplin (LIVE) * Loaded Weapon 1 (New Line) * Fire In the Sky (Paramount) * Point of No Return (Warner Bros.) * Alive (Touchstone)

THE VIDEO WORKS 1006 S. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach. (714) 497-1727. * Chaplin (LIVE) * Fire In the Sky (Paramount) * The Crush (Warner Bros.) * Bad Lieutenant (LIVE) * El Mariachi (Columbia Tri-Star)

VIDEO OUTPOST 13925 Yale Ave., Irvine. (714) 552-3172. * Chaplin (LIVE) * The Crush (Warner Bros.) * Alive (Touchstone) * Groundhog Day (Columbia Tri-Star) * Point of No Return (Warner Bros.)

OMNI VIDEO 10135 Valley View, Cypress. (714) 828-8088. * Loaded Weapon 1 (New Line) * Groundhog Day (Columbia Tri-Star) * Falling Down (Warner Bros.) * Point of No Return (Warner Bros.) * Alive (Touchstone)

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