by Patrick Bromley
When I was a kid, the local theater down the street from my house did a double feature of UHF and Shag for the low price of $1.50. I had saved my allowance so I could afford an admission, a popcorn and a cherry Coke and spend a Sunday afternoon at the movies. The real reason I was excited was because of UHF, which was whisked to the second run theater after a disappointing release. I was (and am) a huge Weird Al fan, so the fact that I would finally get to see the movie so soon after it had played the big theaters felt particularly special. That I would get to see a second movie called Shag, presumably a comedy set in the '60s and starring actors I did not know, was just a bonus -- value added to my UHF admission.
Well, that Sunday afternoon turned out to be one of the best double features I've ever attended and one of my favorite movie memories of all time. That I loved UHF should come as no surprise. It's a movie aimed right at 11-year old boys with a demented sense of humor and a love for Weird Al. What was much more unexpected was my reaction to Shag, a film for which I fell so hard and so instantly that it was one of the great surprises of my young movie-going life. Even my fellow 11 and 12-year old friends immediately understood my affection for the film and chose not to ridicule me for liking a movie they saw as being "for girls," something I always appreciated about them. I'm glad that young people outgrow such classifications, just as I'm glad I never had a need to subscribe to them. That kind of thinking would have prevented me from loving Shag. I don't want to live in a world in which I don't love Shag.
Plot isn't all that important in Shag. It's a movie about a time and a place and an age and a feeling, not so much about a story. It's a "one magic summer" movie condensed to the span of a weekend, in which love is found and lost and the bonds of friendship grow stronger. It's a film that makes me nostalgic for a time I did not live through; the music is wall-to-wall great, the clothes dynamite, the locations gorgeous and the attitudes sunny and optimistic. It is, above all else, charming. We sometimes dismiss charming as being too slight or of having no stakes. This, of course, is bullshit. Think about how many movies fail to be even charming -- especially the ones that reach for it and come up short (see: most romantic comedies of the last 20 years). To suggest that Shag should be something more than a sweet, good-natured and incredibly fun celebration of friendship, music, dance and young love is a fool's game, especially when it's so good at being that thing. Even as a kid, I understood the value in a movie that allowed me to spend time with characters I loved and transported me to somewhere else.
Blu-ray release date: June 27, 2017
DTS HD 2.0 Master Audio (English)
Buy Shag from Olive Films here.