It's the early Sixties. All over America, idealistic kids are leaving college and joining the Peace Corps. Flying off to foreign shores to spread the message of peace, harmony, and The All-American Dream.
Lawrence Bourne III is not one of these idealistic kids. He's a pampered blueblood, preferring to spend his time drinking, gambling and dating sorority girls than studying.
His gambling catches up with him on the day of his graduation, and for once, his father won't bail him out this time. So after a mad dash across country, he finds escape on a Peace corps flight to Thailand, in place of a college friend who for once is happy to swap idealism for capitalism in the shape of a sports car and a girl.
On the flight, he meets Beth Wexler, a medical student, and the infamous Tom Tuttle from Tacoma, an engineer and psychology major. making the obvious choice, he sits by Beth, and starts making his move......
When they get to Thailand, they are taken by helicopter to a remove village, where they are left to settle in by Reynolds, the local Peace Corps guy, before starting work on a bridge across the river. During the next few days, Lawrence's cover is exposed, and whilst both Tom and Beth ignore him, he makes a friend in 'americanized' local At Toon.
Then one day, the truth is revealed. Reynolds is working with a local warlord who wants the bridge to open up more territory for his drug trade. Tom Tuttle is captured by the local Communist army, who want the bridge to give access to more land to conquer. and stuck in the middle is the tiny village, for which Lawrence and Beth are gaining a strong affection.......
Tom Hanks is given a slightly different challenge here as Lawrence Bourne III. Instead of the usual hapless incompetent victim he played so well in most of the 1980s movies, he's given a different chalenge here, playing Lawrence as clever, sophisticated, and superior. He does well, as do the rest of the cast. John Candy is excellent, and for me steals the movie as Tom Tuttle, swinging his performance between the over-enthusiastic go-getter and the brainwashed Communist Activist well. Rita Wilson is maybe the weakest of the three principals, but there's enough there to see why she was cast, and as she very soon became Mrs Hanks, he obviously saw plenty in her as well.
On the periphery, Gedde Watanabe is fun as At Toon, Tim Thomerson plays the slimy Reynolds with a nicely psychotic bent, and the rest of the supporting cast provide the impetus for the stars to shine.