Released five months after the mega-hit musical Blue Hawaii, Follow That Dream is the first of three films Elvis Presley would star in in 1962. Unlike Kid Galahad, a remake that features one of Presley’s best performances, and Girls! Girls! Girls!, one of Presley’s top-grossing career films, Follow That Dream is a relatively forgettable film. (Maybe that is why it has taken me more than three months to actually write about it.)
Presley portrays Toby Kwimper, the oldest son in a vagabond family. When the family’s car runs out of gas in Florida, Pa Kwimper (played by Arthur O’Connell) decides they should stay put on land that is conveniently located just outside of government jurisdiction. Basically the Kwimpers are like the Swiss Family Robinson but without the shipwreck.
Toby is a Typical Elvis Character, a concept I briefly outlined in my write-up about Wild in the Country. Toby is young and handsome. He is a bit oblivious and careless. Most importantly when handed a guitar, Toby puts on a show. Even if the reason for his performance within the context of the movie is completely absurd. Case in point: early on in the film, Toby sings “I’m Not The Marrying Kind” to his adopted sister Holly, played by Anne Helm. Why? Who knows. (Actually, I’ll delve into their bizarre relationship later on in this post.)
As the film progresses, Toby embarks on a series of misadventures thanks to his father’s decision to settle on this land. While trying to get a small business loan, he is mistaken for a bank robber. Toby then becomes the sheriff of the land and he faces off with gamblers who have opened a casino on the property. (Gamblers always love a good tax evasion scheme.)
The central conflict of Follow That Dream pits the local government against the Kwimpers. Pa Kwimper thrives on avoiding the law thus living on this land, which cannot be taxed or policed by the government, is the ideal situation for him. (I mean, taxes totally suck.) As a result, the family is seen as disruptive to society because they take from the government and give nothing back. Pa doesn’t pay taxes. Toby lives off of military benefits. Thus the highway superintendent conspires with a social worker to prove Pa Kwimper as an unfit parent. Because this is an Elvis movie, the social worker seduces Toby during a song and performs a psych evaluation on him.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Am05yZehlAM]
All this leads to a courtroom showdown between the government officials and the Kwimpers. (The haves vs. the have nots.) Much to the chagrin of the government, Toby and his family have achieved an unconventional version of the American Dream. Compared to the intellectual elite who try to control the family’s behavior, the Kwimpers enjoy their lives by embracing a “pioneer spirit”. The Kwimper’s pioneer spirit is ultimately celebrated by the judge who allows the Kwimper children to remain in their father’s care.
In addition to being a lesson about how to achieve the American Dream while also avoiding paying taxes, Follow That Dream presents one very important lesson: how to get your adoptive sibling to realize that you are adult woman.
Holly is the smartest person in her family. Not that Toby or her father recognize or appreciate that. She desperately wants Toby to notice her, even though he has a very limited understanding of women and relationships.
Holly: I am 19 years old and I’m kind of well built.
Toby: I know that and I’m glad of it.
Holly: Are ya Toby?
Toby: Uh huh. Cause I try not to notice things like that and you’re a good one to practice not noticing on.
Holly: Well, why me? What’s wrong with noticing girls?
Toby: That’s how they catch you.
Holly and Toby constantly bicker about the relationship between men and women during the film. She clearly wants Toby to see her as an adult but he can’t be bothered. But finally, after the courtroom drama has settled and the reunited family returns home, Holly makes Toby notice her. And all she had to do was pull an Allison Reynolds and change her entire appearance.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Ln5z1bWOts]
In conclusion, the American Dream is all about finding ways to trick the government and ending up with your adopted sister. But it is all okay as long as you eventually pay your taxes. Did I mention that Follow that Dream is set in Florida?