"In Your Wildest Dreams" is notable as the feature length directorial debut of Bruce Neibaur, who would later direct "The ButterCream Gang" (1992) and "Friendship's Field" (1995) for Feature Films for Families, before embarking on a very successful string of critically acclaimed IMAX films, including "Hearst Castle: Building the Dream" (1996) and "Mysteries of Egypt" (1998; this is the top-grossing documentary ever shown in regular theaters).
"In Your Wildest Dreams" was also a training ground of sorts for many of its cast and crew whose first feature film experience was this low-budget video. Line producer Scott Swofford would later work as the producer of many of Neibaur's films, and would also work with Academy Award-winning director Kieth Merrill on many major projects.
"In Your Wildest Dreams" was Sarah Schaub's first film experience. Then a young child, she has the 3rd billed role, that of the lead's little sister. Schaub would go on to appear in other films and become best known for starring as "Dinah Greene" in the TV series "Promised Land."
"In Your Wildest Dreams" essentially poses the question: What would it be like for a teenager to achieve sudden wealth, which he hadn't really earned? The plot allows for some exploration about the relative significance of material things vs. family, friends, and honor. It is a lesson-oriented story, but despite the film's flaws, its a surprisingly interesting story, with a few unexpected twists.
The film opens with what appears to be a demonstration of a revolutionary artificial intelligence computer chip, which allows a robot driver to maneuver an expensive vehicle along regular city streets. We're soon introduced to a couple of shady characters who are involved in illegal insider trading: Justin Maddox (played by Brett Palmer) is the high-rolling young stock trader, as well as the film's "bad guy."
Maddox has dropped out of school early to make big money, and has impressed the film's main character, Mark Andrews (Trevor Black). Mark is a senior in high school who works as a mail clerk at the previously mentioned high tech company. He has long planned to attend Princeton University, but he is beginning to think that hooking up with Maddox in the big money game might be the way to go.
Mark's girlfriend is Holly Banks (Lise Wilburn), the female lead, and the daughter of the high tech company's founder and CEO. Holly and Mark have a great relationship and she supports him in his plans to go to Princeton. Mark, however, is concerned about going away to college far away from Holly.
The film basically switches between scenes of Mark with Holly or his family, and scenes showing Maddox executing his plans to swindle people out of a lot of money in order to pay off some serious debts to some clearly dangerous characters.
Mark is in a high school economics class which is studying stock trading. The students have computers which allow them to simulate trading realistically because the system is tied to the real stock exchange. While working on his assignment during the lunch break, Mark and his friend accidently switch the system into "real" mode, without realizing it. When Mark picks a company he to buy shares in he chooses the company founded by Holly's father: Banks Electronics. There is not really a sound business reason for him to choose the company -- it's shares haven't changed value in many months. The program asks him to enter an account number, and in his haste to go to lunch, he simply enters his bank account number, thinking its all simply a simulation.
Mark later learns that he has actually purchased thousands of shares of an underperforming stock, wiping out his college savings. For a time he is devastated, and doesn't know what to do. But then Banks Electronics issues press releases about its new artificial intelligence technology, and its stock skyrockets in value. Suddenly Mark owns millions of dollars in stock.
In scenes that seem central to the purpose for the whole film, Mark splurges some of his new-found wealth to buy expensive gifts for himself and everybody in his family. He also begins to change in ways that Holly and his family notice, and are bothered by.
But the film isn't simply about an 18-year-old becoming a millionaire. There is additional intrigue as Mark is investigated for insider trading, and for ties to a suspected white-collar criminal ring. Eventually this leads back to Justin Maddox. While authorities investigate Mark's trades, Maddox realizes that Mark is the one who bought the very shares that Maddox had planned to cash in on, because Maddox had inside information about the company's upcoming announcements and certain increase in value. Maddox tries to con Mark out of his shares, leading to an intense confrontation between Mark, Maddox, and trade commission authorities.
There are some unexpected plot twists at the end after which many of these events make more sense. Mark is also left with a difficult ethical decision to make, as he essentially must choose between his newly acquired wealth -- which he could legally keep -- and doing the right thing morally.
To fairly evaluate this film it is first necessary to describe what it is, and what it is not. This is not a big budget Hollywood feature film. "In Your Wildest Dreams" was never intended to be released theatrically. It is a direct-to-video production made by a relatively small production company which, at that time, had not made very many films.
Aside from this being a low-budget independent film, it is also intended as a family-friendly, quasi-educational film. It is intended to teach positive values, a fact which has always been a prominent feature of its marketing.
As with other Feature Films for Families productions, this film avoids offensive content such as graphic violence, racism, profanity, etc. This is one of the reasons families and conscientious film viewers choose this company's films.
These factors shouldn't cause anybody to avoid this film. Although it intentionally conveys positive values, this is a story-driven film and not just an educational video. "In Your Wildest Dreams" is a drama, and doesn't come off as propaganda or didacticism. In fact, it is far less prone to hitting the viewer over the head with a "lesson" than many of the supposedly purely "artistic" or commercial films made by Hollywood.
I wasn't sure what to expect when I began watching this movie, and I wasn't even sure if I would watch very much of it. But I was soon drawn into an interesting story featuring very engaging characters. One can't help but care about the characters and desire to find out what happens to them. I found the film not only watchable, but compelling.
So while I enjoyed "In Your Wildest Dreams," I should point out that it is a deeply flawed movie. Perhaps the biggest problem is the sound. As soon as I started the video it struck me as worse-than-amateur in its sound quality. It might have simply been a defective video tape, but I don't think so. After a few minutes of listening to the poorly made audio track I became mostly accustomed to it and rarely thought about it during the rest of the film. But with its high levels of ambient noise and low-contrast levels, the audio track is pretty bad.
The funny thing is, the movie's sound editor is a real pro: Mike L. McDonough. He even won a Golden Reel Award for "Best Sound Editing," and he recently worked as a sound designer on "Star Trek: Insurrection" (1998). The poor sound quality of "In Your Wildest Dreams" can't be attributed solely to inexperience, either, because before this film McDonough had worked at Disney on such films as "The Black Cauldron" (1985). I'm assuming that the problem with the sound on "In Your Wildest Dreams" must be attributed to a lack of proper budget or equipment, or to poor mastering. The people who made this film did an impressive job with very little money, but they may have skimped too much in this area.
My other major complaint is with the music. It's terrible! I don't know why. The music was by Kurt Bestor, who typically turns out great scores. He has received an Emmy and been nominated for a Grammy for his work. His work on "Rigoletto," produced by the same company just two years later, is fantastic. I don't know what he was thinking with "In Your Wildest Dreams." He's got some kind of ugly techno sound going on. The score struck me as cheesy, inappropriate, and disjointed. There are a few okay songs that Bestor didn't write, but for the most part the music on this film really drags it down.
Fortunately, the film looks great! Director of photography T. C. Christensen's cinematography is technically superb. The photography is a delight to watch, yet serves the story and atmosphere without drawing undue attention to itself. A range of difficult settings, lighting conditions, and subjects are handled with aplomb, including the imaginative ultra-low budget filming of an artificial intelligence at work.
As noted before, the plot is quite interesting. But the dialogue is simply serviceable. I can't remember many lines that made me wince, but for the most part the scripting simply gets the job done.
Of course, the performances largely make or break a low-budget film. With "In Your Wildest Dreams" the acting is a bit of a mixed bag. There are many talented actors in the cast, but also some amateurs who should have received better direction or not been cast.
Most important are the performances of the two leads: Trevor Black as Mark and Lise Wilburn as Holly. Holly really lights up the screen. She's attractive and fun to watch. She delivers a very natural performance, seeming like a real person more than a highly-coached actress. This is a good thing. There are a few wrong notes, but she is on screen a lot, and the part is a difficult one without many actor-friendly "hooks" to hide behind.
Trevor Black is good, but not great. His performance was never distracting, and he let me get into the story. But he didn't seem to bring extra depth to the character the way a much more talented performer might have done with this so-so script.
Sarah Schaub was fun to watch as Mark's little sister. It's not surprising that she went on to become an in-demand actress.
Some of the smaller roles went to some really amazing actors, including Steve Anderson as a company insider, Jeff Olson as Mark's father, and Robert Nelson as Holly's father. Peggy Matheson as Ms. Steele is just odd. Brett Palmer as bad guy Justin Maddox seems like he has a lot going for him as an actor. But he just seems too over-the-top; he never seemed to mesh well with the rest of the film. I wouldn't mind seeing him in something else, though.
Oh, and if you're careful you can catch a glimpse of Tip Boxell, who would go on ten years later to become the producer of "Charly" (2002).
Overall I enjoyed watching "In Your Wildest Dreams." I wouldn't mind watching it again. Plot-wise, it's fairly original and unusual for such a small-budget film. I even learned a little about the stock market, insider trading, and trade commission investigators. (Countless movies and TV shows have homicide investigators. How many films can you name that feature trade commission investigators?) The story pulled me in and kept me involved with some interesting "what if?" situations. What would I do if I were in a similar situation? It's meant to be thought-provoking, and it succeeds in that area.
"In Your Wildest Dreams" is certainly well-intentioned, and there's nothing offensive about it. Not a great film by any means, but except for the sound and music, it's nothing to be ashamed of.
|Trevor Black||Mark Andrews|
|Lise Wilburn (Lisa)||Holly Banks|
|Sarah Schaub||Kaly Andrews|
|Brett Palmer||Justin Maddox|
|Steve Anderson||Art Williams|
|Robert Nelson||Trevor Banks|
|Jeff Olson||George Andrews|
|Marti Tueller||Helen Andrews|
|Darah Simper||Ali Andrews|
|Patti Jo Bender||Barbara Wood|
|Peggy Matheson||Ms. Steele|
|Matthew Bohling||Sam Speilman|
|Tip Boxell||Mr. Speilman|
|Joseph Ballesteros||First Student|
|Rachel Day||Second Student|
|Derek White||Third Student|
|Mary Leisa Moore||Art's wife|
|Carily Baker||Girl on Swing|
|Sarah Baker||Girl Playing Kickball|
|Executive Producer||Forrest S. Baker III|
|Sound Editor/Post Mixer||Michael L. McDonough|
|Director of Photography||T. C. Christensen|
|Film Editor||Steven L. Johnson|
|Line Producer||Scott Swofford|
|Producer||Don A. Judd|
|Script||Forrest S. Baker III|
|Based on a story by||Forrest and Sharon Baker|
|Production Coordinator||Terri Pappas|
|Assistant Director||Jeff Miller|
|1st Asst. Camera||Mark Goodman|
|2nd Asst. Camer||James Jordan|
|Art Director||Roger Crandall|
|Set Decorator||Cindy Neibaur|
|Script Supervisor||Penny Johnson|
|Best Boy||Nick Peterson|
|Key Grip||Alan Oakes|
|Dolly Grip||Elesia Walser|
|Sound Mixer||Doug Cameron|
|Boom Operator||Joe Garrard|
|Property Master||Lansing Smith|
|Wardrobe Coordinator||Cathren Warner|
|Hair and Makeup||Tena Parker|
|Location Manager||Michael Anderson|
|Music Editor||Ted Hinckley|
|Music Engineers||Guy Randle|
|Assistant Editor||Lori Petersen|
|Post Production||Dream Sequence|
|Foley Artist||Ryan Purcell|
|Sound Asst's||Kristin McArdle|
|Robot's Voice||Mike McDonough|
|Computer Voice||Claire Simpson|
|Transportation Captain||Peter Daniels|
|Production Assistant||Heidi Quinn|
|Craft Service||Joyce Quinn|
|Technical Advisor||Richard E. Haskell|
|Production Accountant||Kim Nielson|
|Financial Officer||K. Edwin Hansen|
"Black and White"
Sung by Amy Robinson and Keni Yarbro
"In Your Wildest Dreams"
Sung by Keni Yarbro
"Through the Eyes of a Child"
Sung by Keni Yarbro
Lyrics by Forrest S. Baker III, Patricia Yorkstetter