Of all the science fiction and fantasy films released in the summer of 1985 -- everything from Back to the Future to Cocoon to Red Sonja -- perhaps the most unrealistic movie to hit theaters that year was the teen comedy Secret Admirer, which asks audiences to accept the premise that both Kelly Preston and Lori Loughlin are in love with C. Thomas Howell.
Ok, that's a little harsh. It's not that my man CTH is without talent or charisma -- one doesn't get to be a leading man without at least one of them -- but Secret Admirer doesn't do much to capitalize on either, instead opting to make his character a clueless and often obnoxious douche whose worst qualities are thrown into even sharper relief by virtue of the fact that he is the object of desire of both Aunt Becky and Kelly Preston. Not just any Kelly Preston, either, but 1985 Kelly Preston -- who, it should be said, is almost identical to 2016 Kelly Preston. Must be all that Xenu blood.
Secret Admirer is an unusual movie in that it's completely commercial and there's nothing risky or ambitious about it, but it's somehow stuck between the worldview of a John Hughes '80s film (think Some Kind of Wonderful before Some Kind of Wonderful) and the kinds of raunchy sex comedies that dominated the first half of the decade. It's basically a PG movie except that Kelly Preston takes her top off a couple of times and everyone curses like sailors, which feels weird in a movie that is otherwise fairly innocent about sex. Unlike a lot of other '80s comedies, sex is not what these characters are chasing. Romance is. If sex happens to be a byproduct of that, so be it. More often than not, though, sex only complicates things for these characters and the choice to sleep with someone really isn't taken lightly. That stuff sets the movie apart from other films of the period, which is what makes it all the more jarring when everyone talks so blue.
Ultimately it wants to be a French farce, piling on the misunderstandings on the way to the bedroom. It's a credit to the construction of the screenplay (by Jim Kouf and David Greenwalt) that there's a scene about two-thirds of the way through the movie in which three sets of mismatched couples wind up parked next to one another at makeout point, all the result of miscommunication stemming from the original letter. Secret Admirer is rarely able to find much actual comedy in the situation, but it's rarely all that funny. The best it can manage is "agreeable," but sometimes I'll take agreeable.
Blu-ray release date: February 16, 2016
DTS HD 2.0 Master Audio (English)
Blu-ray bonus features: Trailer
Buy Secret Admirer from Olive Films here