You Have to Rewind It (Memorial Day Weekend Edition): My Review of the 1994 Film ‘With Honors’

Happy Memorial Day weekend!


Wait. I remember what several surefire intellectuals told me about wishing happiness on Memorial Day (including the weekend).


It’s a Happy Memorial Day weekend.

Huh. No, that’s not it either. It’s only Friday.


The point is, whether you like to be happy on Memorial Day weekend or not, to wish those in remembrance a happy remembrance or not, or whether your burger is made of tofu or it’s a Wendy’s five-stacker mooing at your taste buds, chances are you are not going to watch the 1994 think piece With Honors, starring Joe Pesci, Brendan Fraser and Josh Hamilton (not the one from the Texas Rangers; the other one).


And that’s OK. It’s the unofficial start of the summer. It’s a time to be outside, to drink and eat and then drink and eat some more.

I was in the same circle of agreement, until, oh boy, one grab of the remote later and wham-O! I guess I’m watching With Honors today.

Then, I wrote a review. It’s 22-years late, really, but still…three-day breaks allow for a lot of grey area.

So…yeah…With Honors.


The Plot was Easy to Follow

Joe Pesci is at it again. This time he’s a monetarily challenged vagrant, living in the basement of a Harvard library. If you’ve ever been to Boston in August, you know it’s never fucking warm there. “Eighty degrees” is more of an academic accomplishment, less of a weather pattern, you feel me? Great. It’s important to think how cold it ALWAYS is in Boston when considering Pesci’s housing situation.

Brendan Fraser, fresh off his role as a Jewish football stud in Hard Knocks: Matt Damon Hates Me, tackles another challenge as another student. He’s cocky. He can run in the snow—but only at the beginning of the film.


Normally, when in college, this would not be a huge deal—lights off = pants off and rave—but this Harvard, where students are constantly working on some kind of a thesis. And that’s exactly what Brendan Fraser was doing. Panic and chaos ensue. Luckily, he did have a copy printed out.


Hell no. Fraser slips on some ice while heading to the library to make copies. When he loses his footing, the printed copy of the thesis goes down a grated precipice and lands…yep, you guessed it…right in Pesci’s lap. He uses it for firewood, causing Fraser to lose his shit.

The entire movie is based around this dilemma.


Do Not Let the Donut Fool You

If you miss the first several moments of the film, you will be duped into thinking that it is based on a glazed donut and a man who is very anal about perfect glazing. That’s funny if you say it out loud, but the movie is more than that.


The Deal is a Classic Give and Take

It’s quite simple, really. Joe Pesci wants to stay warm through the cold-ass Boston winter and Fraser wants back those pages. It’s their lives, respecitvely.

Pesci, being very apt at deals from his mob-type roles, makes, well, a deal. Remember the donut? Yeah, besides asking for the perfect glazed donut, Pesci uses his newly found hostage (Fraser’s thesis) to get Fraser to meet his demands. With each demand met, a page or several pages is given back.

Fraser can’t handle it, though, so he calls the cops and gets Pesci arrested for stressing a Harvard student. Pesci is pissed; Fraser is elated. BUT! BUT! BUT!

The cops can’t find the thesis among the entire discovery at the crime scene.

To use Boston terminology: Fraser is deflated.


The Resolve was Too Quick

In real-time, it would take months to sort through all the legal crap. There’s the Public Defender, this and that, motions and a full docket. (We’ve all seen how busy the Boston courts are while watching Ben Affleck movies.) But Pesci is put in front of the judge in a matter of hours, and Fraser bails his ass out so he can get that thesis.

But the deal for pages gets a little more interesting…

By now it’s May, but you can’t tell because Boston is still covered in ice. Pesci scores a sweet deal, where he gets to sleep in Fraser’s useless van that decorates the front lawn like a West Virginia cinder block.  It doesn’t run…but oh man, it will.

He feeds Pesci. There’s oatmeal and some other stuff.


The Sub-Plot Really Kept Me Intrigued

Pesci hates Fraser’s thesis. He tells him it’s shit, and that he has no idea how Fraser ever graduated from the School of Ties.

Hey, let’s meet the roommates!


Moira Kelly shows up

If this movie were only about Fraser and Pesci and a thesis, it would’ve never worked. But Moira Kelly happens to be a housemate of Fraser and—ring the bell!!—the director has a scene where she shaves her legs (which, in the 90s, was probably considered sexy for some weird-ass reason).

Once she’s finished grooming, she goes on to provide an important, caring voice throughout the film. Eventually she goes figure skating in another movie and then lands on a hill with one tree.


Patrick Dempsey is Alive

Somewhere in between Can’t Buy Me Love and Grey’s Anatomy, Patrick Dempsey was lost. Not Milk Carton lost or Jon Voight lost, but like, lost-lost. His hair was all over the place, as were his choices for movie roles. In With Honors, he plays a radio DJ who likes wine and has a pet monkey…wait, no…a pet chicken. He has a pet monkey in Outbreak, where his hair is still a mess. Anyway, he likes Pesci and they fix the van (remember? It didn’t work.). They drink wine and there’s a touching moment where Pesci not only kills Dempsey’s pet chicken but he also feeds it to Fraser for Christmas. How’s that for being a recovering Jewish athlete?


The other guy

The other guy is a dick.

He fucking hates Joe Pesci, too. Everything about Pesci burns his ass to no end. Like…Pesci sticking his homeless-man socks in the oven to warm them. yu1aJRaSWaLxG34OhicwRr1qGyK.jpg

…Pesci not being a good friend to Robert De Niro. Pesci getting a two-year Sports Illustrated subscription just for the football phone. Pesci, Pesci, Pesci.

Personally, I identify with this character, as we find out later in the film he was printing blank pages to make it SOUND like his thesis was going swimmingly. But it wasn’t. It’s the same thing as lying about your homework being completed.


The Kicker is Classic Northeastern Understanding

It’s so damn cold in Boston and Pesci can’t stand it anymore. The van has no heating and the blankets are about as useless as cheese trays at Lactose Intolerant clinic.

Bottom line: Pesci wants in that house. And they have the space. Dempsey moved his golf clubs from of the corner, plus Boz went to Bali and isn’t coming back. (It doesn’t matter who Boz is, either. For this exercise, it’s important just to note that his room is available.)

The roommates LOVE the idea…except that one guy. This causes a scuffle and feathers are ruffled. Unfortunately, the more-positive sect can’t afford the extra rent if dickhead moves out in protest. So Brendan Fraser goes and lies to Joe Pesci about the availability of the lodging. Pesci then leaves the van (and one empty oatmeal bowl) in search of greener pastures. (Good luck with that, Joe.)


Brendan Fraser’s Leg was Surprise Method Acting

It’s broken for most of the film. You don’t see a lot of films where the leading man (or woman) has a broken leg most of the film. Oscar voters missed this.


Maybe it’s Because Joe Pesci’s Broken Lungs Make You Soggy in the Eyes?

Finally! Joe Pesci moves into the space in the attic. He doesn’t flush the toilet, but that doesn’t matter because he has money coming to him in the form of disability benefits and he can cover rent. So that one guy has no grounds for protest.

Sadly, Pesci gets this funding because he has mesothelioma. Today, with the roughly 782 commercials informing us about mesothelioma, any of the roommates could have told Joe to contact one of the class-action lawyers or go online and hopefully things would have gone differently.

In 1994 though, without Facebook or Twitter, all he could do was die.


Sex Scene…Was That What You’re Inferring There, Guys?

(I think) Pesci doesn’t let his lungs get in the way of banging(?) a hot extra at the pajama party he attends with Brendan Fraser. (Yep, Fraser invites Pesci to a scantily clad pajama party…) You don’t see anything other than the original contact between said extra and Pesci, so you have to assume the next steps in the process. But that’s difficult, because you’re mind quickly switches to wonder how that hot extra got into Harvard in the first place. And what the fuck is her thesis?


Not since Madeline Stowe and Daniel Day-Lewis…

Although it doesn’t have a song attached to it like Last of the Mohicans, Fraser and Kelly finally kiss.  It’s cool. I think it was near a fountain—but you can’t tell because everything looks like a fountain on that campus. It might have been the admissions building.


Where Things Really Go Down Hill

I thought it started when we see Monte’s (Fraser’s character) bare white ass popping through the dark like a G.I. Joe laser, but I was wrong. It really goes back to Pappy Joe. His lungs are a mess. Though he is happy Fraser has decided to can that shitty thesis and write a new one, he’s really starting to wrinkle. He wants to see his kid. He wants to read his obituary aloud and see what…



Yep! Plot exploded!

All of these horse-shit shenanigans, from taking in this homeless man, to getting him a damn glazed donut to allowing him to kill a house pet, were all for not because ol Monte decided to write a new damn thesis. Harvard people love thesissssssssssssssses.

However, that one guy comes around and the group is a whole!! All it took was a grilled cheese sandwich and presto—do whatever, flush whenever. The happy (yet sad) crew goes on a road trip to see Pesci’s grown-up son. So you can say none of them will be home, alone.


A Thought Before the End

Imagine if the Zuckerberg character in The Social Network would’ve tripped on some ice and lost the prototype of Facebook down a grated precipice, landing in the hands of a homeless man…and that homeless man was played by Kevin Hart. Imagine the havoc he would wreak on the Baking Soda brothers and Zuckerberg.

“You want this, do ya? Well, I want a donut…with perfect glaze……………………………………………………..(this is where Hart would do a 60-minute monologue, explaining all the things he wants.)”


(Three-fourths of the movie later, he would eat his glazed donut.)

It would have been more interesting.


The end

As you would expect, Pesci’s son wants nothing to do with him. He’s in a suit, and Pesci is in like a puffy cloak that is made of 50 or so blankets and rubber bands. Pesci has a look at his son, and that’s that.

Life is difficult and Joe Pesci in With Honors is a dying example of that.

Oh yeah, Pesci dies. Sorry.

He collects a rock, though, which is cool because it’s kind of like the loose-change thing Danny DeVito—another short actor—did as Owen in Throw Momma from the Train.


After Pesci dies

Before Fraser goes on to star in the Mummy and the Mummy Returns, he graduates from Harvard. He doesn’t graduate “with honors” because he misses the thesis deadline. Again, this is maddening when you really think about what the hell just happened. But Pesci writes a nice obituary-inclusion for the roomies, which tells Fraser he has make-believe honors, and that the rest of the gang is a really good bunch of yutes.

They group hug…Moira Kelly grabs that one guy because he’s not sure he should be in the group hug, and tears and joy and…

What’s that?

Did I just say…yute?

What’s a yute?

Well that, my friends, is for another three-day weekend.

Cue the Madonna song:


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