George Strait’s film debut, “Pure Country,” turned 25 this week. Released on Oct. 23, 1992, it was Strait’s first (and only) starring role in a film. While it turned a profit, grossing $15.1 million on a $10 million budget, it wasn’t a hit with critics.
But because of a soundtrack that sold more than 6 million copies and spawned two No. 1 hits for Strait, as well as the film’s syndication on cable TV, King George’s tale of a country star who has lost his way and returns to his country home to reset his priorities has endured the test of time to become a fan favorite. Here’s a few reasons why we love Strait’s only cinematic outing...
The “Pure Country” soundtrack is a bit of a different sound from Strait, since most of the songs on the album are from the perspective of Strait’s character, Wyatt “Dusty” Chandler. Album opener “Heartland” remains one of Strait’s most bombastic and arena-ready songs, and “I Cross My Heart” is a wedding staple. The soundtrack was also recently re-released on vinyl.
Before he was Coach Eric Taylor, Kyle Chandler was Buddy Jackson, Dusty’s stand-in. When Dusty gets tired of the smoke and mirrors that his tour has become, he quits his tour to head home and find himself, much to the horror of his manager.
Enter Jackson, who gets drunk with power playing Dusty in his absence. Chandler plays Jackson with a bemused, smarmy smirk most of the film. It’s a great villain performance from an actor who would later go on to become an embodiment of model fatherhood.
Strait’s musical chops are much, much better than his acting chops, but he does a better job here than most singers-turned-actors do in their own films. He was worried about the film and its effect on his career before he took the role, but later said in an interview that he saw it as “an adventure”: “It's a good change of pace for me. I got to try something new.”
Besides, when he’s singing (which is most of his scenes in the film), his straightforward charisma is hard to deny.
Yep, there is a “Pure Country” franchise. “Pure Country 2: The Gift” was released in 2010 as a straight-to-video release. It stars Katrina Elam as Bobbie, a young girl who is visited by three angels who give her the gift of song and must follow a series of rules in order to still sing. Strait appears as himself in a brief cameo.
“Pure Country: Pure Heart,” also released straight-to-video, revolved around two teenage sisters going on a trip to Nashville after discovering their father was a country music singer. Willie Nelson makes a cameo. I have no idea if these sequels are good, but the fact that there is a “Pure Country” franchise is amusing in and of itself.
If you weren’t alive to witness this film when it was released, or you don’t own the DVD, don’t fret- it plays on TV all the time. TV was probably how this film got introduced to an entire generation of George Strait fans, to be honest. This thing is inescapable on CMT and other cable channels, ensuring its longevity.
What are you waiting for? Get to watching.