Film Review: Follow That Dream
In 1962, Gordon Douglas released Follow That Dream, based on Richard P. Powell’s 1959 novel Pioneer, Go Home! Starring Elvis Presley, Anne Helm, Arthur O’Connell, Joanna Moore, Jack Kruschen, Simon Oakland, Roland Winters, Alan Hewitt, Howard McNear, Frank DeKova, Herbert Rudley, Gavin Koon, and Robin Koon, the film had an unknown box office gross. It reached #5 on the Variety weekly Box Office Survey and finished at #33 for the top-grossing film of 1962.
Pop Kwimper and his vagabond family, made up of his son Toby and adopted children, are traveling in Florida when Pop drives onto a stretch of highway that has yet to be opened. However, the car runs out of gas and Holly, one of Pop’s adopted children, persuades Toby to have Pop take up residence on the land next to the road. After an encounter with the local government, they run into a fisherman who influences the family to build a business catering to fishermen. However, trouble follows and the children are taken away while two gamblers set up shop on the land, causing Toby to deal with armed thugs.
Though it continued using the formula that made Presley’s films successful, Follow That Dream isn’t all that great of a film. For one, the plot is downright laughably stupid, even for a Presley film. The family runs out of gas on the side of an unopened road and Holly decides it would be a great place to set up shop, despite it being so out of the way. Yet, that’s not the worst part of the story, seeing as the main conflict really gets started when a social worker decides that she’s going to take all the children away simply because Toby rebuffed her advances, even though she already had a boyfriend. What’s more, said boyfriend also decides to make it so Pop and his family should get evicted because he doesn’t like how the homestead looks. That’s not even going into the gamblers and how Toby just wins over a judge through his wits, which is what resolves the conflict. Granted, pettiness can do a lot of things within a film, but deciding to have a person’s family taken away because one person turned down another, who already had a significant other, down borders on inane, even for a Presley film.
Still, Toby is pretty much like all the other characters Presley portrayed: self-confident bordering on cocky, but has just enough charm to be able to make everything all right in the end. But the one difference he has between every other character that he played previously is the main love interest. This one’s a little bit weirder seeing as it’s his adopted sister, Holly. Granted, they’re not blood related and things were quite a bit different in the 1960s than they are today, but with Toby starting out seeing her as just some kid and then coming to realize how she’s grown as a woman, when the two are related in some shape and form is tad disconcerting.
The rest of his family is pretty odd, too. Especially Pop. The man is adamant about keeping up the appearance that Toby’s back is as screwed up as the army states he is, going so far as to try and have him not move the car even when nobody but the family is around. He also goes along with Holly’s idea that squatting on some piece of land out in the middle of nowhere is a great idea. However, that can be seen as him being pragmatic, seeing as he realizes that unless he does squat on the land, the family can be taken in for loitering on the side of the road.
As a whole though, it seems that this was a dip downward for Presley, especially when it comes to his performance. His last film had some good acting and showed that he was improving. But here, it feels like he’s just bored and doesn’t really want to be in the film. Most of the time it feels like he’s just going through the motions and trying to just make it to the next scene. Further, his songs are done very poorly as the lip-syncing is shoddy as it barely looks like Presley is moving his lips and the words are coming out like they’re perfectly sung.
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