Grand Theft Auto Ron Howard

As a devoted hater of the oeuvre of Ron Howard, it is my solemn duty to proclaim Grand Theft Auto his most entertaining movie. This is not to say that his debut is a very good movie at all, but unlike his subsequent cornpone classics it’s unpretentious and without too many syrupy messages. Howard stars as Sam Freeman, who’s betrothed to the wealthy Paula Powers (Nancy Morgan) despite her parents’ best wishes. When she’s grounded and ordered to marry a schlep, they swipe her father’s Rolls and plan to elope to Vegas. Only problem is that various parents have offered rewards for their capture, meaning half the countryside swipe their own sets of wheels in the hopes of collecting some cash. Howard the actor largely takes a back seat to his pursuers, who are written broad and played even broader, which is par for the course for the auto smash ’em up genre. Still, the movie gets by on its determination to be innocuous, a refusal to resort to cruelty and a sunny attitude that money alone can’t by. At this late date the film isn’t exactly funny (it isn’t even vaguely funny) but one smiles, nods and enjoys the sweet innocence of the production. In fact, the threadbare conceit is probably the only thing that Howard’s mentality can support — make it hold anything heavier and it would collapse under the weight. Too bad his later career would load it down with significance and crush it into a fine pulp. Extras include a convivial feature commentary with Howard and Roger Corman, a brief intro by Corman, and a featurette that largely defers to Howard’s father and brother (both incidental cast members). (Buena Vista)