Okay, this one’s not obscure at all and just happened to be on cable in HD, so I decided to watch it again. For some reason it only gets one star in the cable guide. It’s definitely worth 2, maybe not 3 but Ebert thought otherwise. Even if you watch it for Kelly LeBrock, whose lips should have a tag-team deathmatch with Angelia Jolie’s, or for the excellent soundtrack with Oingo Boingo, once you get past the tedious beginning.
Seriously, before Kelly LeBrock shows up, the movie is almost painful. Anthony Michael Hall (Gary) and Ilan Mitchell-Smith (Wyatt), two guys whose careers fizzled after their braces came off, are the school nerds. Robert Downey Jr with his frightening hair and his nondescript douchebag pal are their tormentors. The story begins with our nerds drooling over the girls’ gym class, then getting pantsed in front of them- the iconic nightmare of being in class in your tighty whities realized. By the end of the film they recover from this humiliation, drive Porsches and Ferraris, befriend bluesmen and fight off biker hordes.
All thanks to Kelly LeBrock. She was a young model who got into movies when she married a producer. At least that saves you from the indignity of the casting couch. Not endowed with much range, she parlayed her slinky bod and sardonic attitude into a small but memorable Hollywood career. From there she hooked up with elbow-destroyer Steven Seagal, and they both got fat and had a few kids. I wish more Hollywood people would do that. It takes pressure off us normal folks.
Anyway, the boys get bored one night when The Bride of Frankenstein is on, and Gary gets the idea to build a girl using Wyatt’s home computer, a Memotech MTX. This leads to an amusing and embarrassing montage of computer graphics involving 3-D boobie models, Playboy pages, downloading Einstein’s brain from a government mainframe, and security involving a rent-a-cop at the other end typing “Access Denied.” It’s not meant to be serious, like say the infamous Jurassic Park stuff, so you have to give it a pass. It looks a lot better than Lawnmower Man, for Gibson’s sake. As the world goes haywire when a freak lightning storm sends Wyatt’s computer into overload, they sit with bras on their heads with a Barbie doll connected to it with alligator clips.
Thankfully the blues club folks make Gary lighten up with some hooch, and Anthony Michael Hall shows his comic chops by trying to fit in with them. “This chick wit da big titties kicked me right in my nuts in fronna the whole class!” Now, them’s the blues, my young Caucasian friend. When they drag Gary home, we are introduced to the film’s other saving grace– Bill Paxton as Chet the assoholic older brother. His performance is truly inspired, but wouldn’t be perfected until he was Hudson in Aliens. We must remember that he was also the genius who directed Fish Heads. His varied career also includes a revolting garbageman in The Dark Backward, the slimy car salesman in True Lies, and more serious work like Frailty and A Simple Plan. So don’t write off Chet, butthead.
As Lisa continues her quest to make the guys grow some balls and stop being doormats for the jocks, she takes them to the mall. Almost immediately, they get humiliated once again by Robert Downey. He’s actually pretty funny in this. The film rides on LeBrock (just as I’d like to, even if I have to beat up Steven Seagal first) and the douchery of Bill Paxton’s excellent Chet character, with a dash of Robert Downey Jr.’s idiocy. Downey dumps slurpees on the poor fellows, but then leaves a drool trail following Lisa out to her car. She tells him she’s with Gary… but to come to his party that night.
The party is the major set piece of the movie and the most memorable part. Everyone in the area shows up, even the douche duo, who want to trade their girlfriends for Lisa. The boys hide in the bathroom from the scary g-g-girls, who seem to like them, but think they’re in love with Lisa. Instead of trading, the guys try to create another Lisa with the computer. This of course gives us another freakshow as wild stuff starts happening all over the house, such as pianos flying out windows, following by naked pianesses (a female pianist –ed.), people in photos dancing, kitchens turning blue, dogs barking on the ceiling, and other tomfoolery. They even put bras on their heads again, but they forget to hook up the Barbie doll. Oops. It creates a nuclear warhead instead, and a layer of semiotic subtext involving fear of nuclear war and a Freudian meat missile in the bedroom.
This pisses off Lisa, not because she might have competition, but because her boys don’t have the balls to tell their tormentors to take a flying fuck at a rolling donut. So she pulls out all the stops and summons a bunch of classic 80’s villains to contend with. First we get a Terminator-alike biker, who also resembles the “Metal Health” guy from that Quiet Riot album,
They romp through the house and tell everyone about the boobie hats the boys like to wear. But then Wez crosses the line, by manhandling some of the girls. Thankfully, Gary has a water pistol to scare off the baddies with. Once you show them you have balls, these subhuman monsters are surprisingly tame. Probably the scene I remember most fondly is when the metalface guy says “Call me…. we’ll do lunch.”
John Hughes not only has a touch for humor, having earned his chops at National Lampoon, but also knows how to pace his movies well. After the party we still have Chet to contend with. When he comes home from the wholesome activity of duck hunting, he finds the house in a shambles and demands retribution on Wyatt. Thankfully Lisa comes to the final rescue, robbing Wyatt of the chance of finding his balls. Instead they take the girls home while she turns Chet into a living, oozing frog scrotum.
From then on it’s a repeat of the end of Risky Business, without the eye-to-eye between father and son. It’s a lot of fun as a fantasy, but tries too hard. “Float an air biscuit?” Really, Mr. Hughes. This is no Sixteen Candles or Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, but it’s still a classic of sorts. It owes a lot to Oingo Boingo’s excellent title song, and the performances I’ve already gushed over. While it’s not heavily quotable, it has iconic, memorable characters and a kickass soundtrack to make up for it.
Quotability Rating: Low
Cheese Factor: Medium-Well
Could it be made today? No fucking way.
Gratuitous Boobs: The piano lady’s boobs are quite nice, yet fleeting.
High Points: Oingo Boingo, Kelly LeBrock, Bill Paxton, Robert Downey Jr.
Low Points: Slow start, Robert Downey Jr.’s hair.