The Wayward Heroes Of ‘Heroes’ Reviewed

by Rachel Bellwoar

The plan was to open a worm farm when they got back from Vietnam. Now, with a shoe box full of worms in tow, Jack (Henry Winkler) is ready to get started — except he might be the only one. While Jack thought ahead about certain things, like staging a breakout from a hospital, he didn’t prepare for bus ticket prices going up, and the biggest surprise of all comes in the form of Carol (Sally Field), a girl Jack meets at the bus depot.

At the time of Heroes’ release, Harrison Ford (who plays one of the soldiers who served with Jack) wasn’t Han Solo. Winkler, however, was three seasons into playing the Fonz on the television series Happy Days and his casting as a Vietnam vet who suffers from PTSD remains one of the film’s selling points; along with Field’s reactions.
While screenwriter James Carabatsos uses Winkler’s comedy skills for some of his interactions with Carol, he never tries to force the film to be funny. He doesn’t let the dialogue get overly earnest, either, instead settling for a middle ground that’s more honest.
The film isn’t completely devoid of movie hijinks (like his character from American Graffiti, Ford’s Ken enjoys racing cars), but Carabatsos tries to put a cap on how far-fetched things get and even the hospital breakout, which seems prepared to be played for laughs, gets taken seriously before the end.
It helps that Carabatsos doesn’t hold up romance as a cure for all of Jack’s problems. When the film begins, Carol is engaged to another man, yet that relationship is in trouble long before she develops feelings for Jack. As a result, viewers are saved from watching Carol be torn between two men and instead get to focus on whether Jack is ready to be in a relationship. When Carol first learns that Jack is a veteran, for example, she’s not thinking of him as a love interest. Their getting together is never a foregone conclusion and it’s what saves the movie from putting too much stock in romance before the other stories being told.
Kansas’ “Carry On Wayward Son” would’ve been new when this movie came out and it’s a great song, as any Supernatural fan will attest. Its use at the end of this movie and during the closing credits, however, feels like an attempt to compensate for the fact that the film doesn’t have a happy ending. It’s not unhappy, per se, but it avoids having to answer a lot of the tough questions that get posed at the end. Even the lyrics would’ve been fine, but it’s the energy of the song that doesn’t fit.
Jeremy Kagan was the director on Heroes and one of the film’s best sequences comes right before the end, when Jack is upset. At first, it’s the sounds that remind him of combat, but then he starts seeing explosions, too, until he’s not in California, but on a street in Vietnam. It’s the only time in the movie that Kagan visualizes Jack’s PTSD that way, but it has its intended effect. Being with Carol isn’t going to solve everything, but maybe it’ll be the motivation Jack needs to seek help.
Heroes is available now on Blu-Ray from Mill Creek Entertainment.

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