(David) Sam(uel) Peckinpah Vincent Canby - Essay

Vincent Canby

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Peckinpah's funny and elegiac new film, "Junior Bonner,"… continues Peckinpah's preoccupation with what might be called reluctant past-primeness, that quality of being about to find oneself over-the-hill (and not liking it a bit)….

["Junior Bonner"] is Peckinpah in the benignly comic mood that, I suspect, is much more the natural fashion of this fine director than is the gross, intellectualized mayhem of his recent "Straw Dogs." "Junior Bonner" is about a man at a critical point in his life—will Junior be able successfully to ride a mean old black bull named Sunshine? Yet there is something as essentially comic as serious about the nature of the challenges Junior faces….

The thing that distinguishes "Junior Bonner," however, is not necessarily its broad streak of romanticism, but its affection for all of the Bonners….

The movie seems to amble through its narrative with no great purpose until a moment, towards the end, when all of the Bonners—father, mother, sons, daughter-in-law and grand-children—find themselves holding an odd reunion in an extremely crowded barroom. Like a lot of families, the Bonners love one another, and find it completely impossible to live together. The scene's climax: an uproarious barroom brawl in which absolutely no one is hurt….

"Junior Bonner," which looks like a rodeo film and sounds like a rodeo film, is a superior family comedy in disguise.

Vincent Canby, "'Junior Bonner'," in The New York Times (© 1972 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), August 3, 1972 (and reprinted in The New York Times Film Reviews: 1971–1972, The New York Times Company & Arno Press, 1973, p. 292).