"Oxford Blues," the latest refinement in abysmal youth-pandering movies, suffers first and foremost from that modern filmmaking malady: The No Exposition Blues. Robert Boris, who dares to be credited as writer-director of this hapless update of the old Tyrone Power vehicle "A Yank at Oxford" (smartly updated two summers ago as "An Officer and a Gentleman") seems unable to recognize the dramatic uses of delayed gratification.
The callow protagonist, a college boy named Nick Di Angelo, parlays a year at the University of Nevada, a varsity letter for single sculling and a gambling windfall into an implausible ticket to Oxford. There he hopes to dazzle a titled, celebrity coed called Lady Vi, but seems to achieve his wretched aspirations so promptly that the plot rarely generates a speck of suspense.
For example, I was convinced that the picture was over for all practical purposes after the opening gambit, which depicts Nick, employed as a parking attendant in Las Vegas, earning a bankroll. The steps: he provides stud service for a divorce' who then cleans up at the craps table in the afterglow and not only splits half her fortune but hands over the keys to a vintage Thunderbird. Is there any reason to believe a juvenile sex fantasy could top this prelude? Obviously, Nick has already found his calling as a gigolo. What's the point of the Lady Vi obsession after hitting this erotic and financial jackpot?
Nevertheless, the film insists on transporting Nick to tradition-encrusted Oriel College, where books are never cracked. He temporarily offends the resident snobs with his Yankee brashness, the rowing team is supposedly privileged company, and Lady Vi proves easier to seduce than Nick himself. Indeed, it seems both ungallant and counterproductive of the filmmaker to characterize the hero's dream girl as such a speedy conquest that his quest, the whole pretext of the plot, is rendered pointless.
Given the minimal nature of the story material and the gauche nature of the local color -- it's impossible to decide which segment of the bogus student population is more loathsome, the native English or the visiting Americans, although sheer numbers certainly favor the former -- the movie inevitably inspires the mind to drift. Instead, you begin pondering Higher Concepts. For example, "Oxford Blues" clearly invites a question like the following: "Has anyone out there been demanding a Big Build-Up for Rob Lowe?" Not on the basis of his decidedly uncrucial contributions to "The Outsiders," "Class" and "The Hotel New Hampshire." Nevertheless, so many magazine and newspaper profiles of Lowe have appeared in unison with the release of "Oxford Blues" that it's obvious someone bought the misconception that he was on the verge of Matinee Idolhood, ready to emerge this summer in the way Matthew Broderick and Tom Cruise did last summer.
If Lowe has serious career aspirations, he'd be well advised to obscure the embarrassment of "Oxford Blues" as soon as possible, looking for roles that do instant violence to the complacent, stupefying "cuteness" of his gigolo exchange student. Far from emerging as a national heartthrob, Lowe is flirting with disaster as the screen's most expendable new prettyface.