Sunday, June 18, 2023

Junesploitation 2023 Day 18: '90s Comedy!


  1. Problem Child (1990, dir. Dennis Dugan)

    Pushover Ben and social climber Flo adopt a seven year old kid, who turns out to be a terror and sabotages a camping trip, a birthday party and a baseball game. And somehow becomes pen pals with a serial killer.

    Well, that was... excruciating I think is the word. Was the script just a post-it note with "Yelling = Funny" written on it?

    Why do married couples in 90's comedies always hate each other?

    Here's a game: name three songs that would be so blindingly obvious needle drops for this movie that you're sure they'd never stoop to actually using them. Did you say Bad to the Bone, Real Wild Child, and Born to Be Wild? Yep, all three are in there.

    Okay, I have one positive thing to say: Gilbert Gottfried was funny in his two scenes.

    1. Like Nikki Finke used to say on, TOLDJA! 🙄🫤

  2. CB4 (1993, d. Tamra Davis)
    First-time watch on Kino BluRay, 8/10.
    The only one of this subgenre of spoofs I saw when it was new was DON'T BE A MENACE. I'm not including FRIDAY, because that's more of a straight forward comedy. At any rate, I'm happier to see this now (& FEAR OF A BLACK HAT, which I watched for the first time in 2020) with some accumulated knowledge. The "I'm Black" video clip is pure perfection.

  3. Drop Dead Fred (1991)

    I never saw Drop Dead Fred — I was 19 when it came out and despite my love of The Young Ones and everything Rik Mayall ever did, I somehow just never made time for it — when I was a kid, but man, this is one of those movies that’s at once perfect for children and also so anarchic and wild that their parents may never want to show it to them.

    It also comes from a very, very dark place.

    While originally intended for Tim Burton to direct and Robin Williams to play Drop Dead Fred, it ended up with Dutch director Ate de Jong and Mayall being involved. Yes, the director of Highway to Hell and the man known for abusing Adrian Edmondson on both The Young Ones and Bottom were selected to make a movie for children.

    In 2021, The Telegraph published “Rik Mayall’s mental health misadventure: how Drop Dead Fred repelled America,” de Jong revealed that as he rewrote the script, he based much of it on his own life, saying “…the trauma of child abuse goes deep and its claws reach far in time. It was not something ever spoken about on the set, not with Rik or anyone, but for me it existed.”

    This is the same movie that Rotten Tomatoes summarized as “Tackling mature themes with an infantile sensibility, Drop Dead Fred is an ill-conceived family comedy that is more likely to stir up a headache than the imagination.”

    Gene Siskel said, “This is easily one of the worst films I’ve ever seen.”

    Hmm. Maybe I saw a different cut.

    Drop Dead Fred feels different in a world that understands childhood abuse and the ways that we cope with it. Elizabeth Cronin (Phoebe Cates, who the movie tries to make look like a woman who has never grown up and who is dowdy, but come on, it’s Phoebe Cates) grew up with a mother (Marsha Mason, absolutely perfect in this movie) who repeatedly emotionally abused her to the point that she found happiness with an imaginary friend named Drop Dead Fred (Mayall). After she caused too much chaos with Fred, her father forced her to symbolically — but totally not — duct tape Fred into a box and put him away forever.

    This scene is also based in horrifying childhood memories. A friend of co-writer/executive producer Carlos Davis named Steve Burnette told the story that his mother had an imaginary friend as a girl which upset her mother so much that she demanded that she flush it down the toilet and kill it. This traumatized her for years.

    When Elizabeth grows up, she remains the same unassertive and frightened little girl, just accepting her husband (Tim Matheson) leaving her for another woman (Bridget Fonda in an uncredited part), losing her job, getting her car stolen and having to move back home with her oppressive mother. Despite help from her friend Janie (Carrie Fisher), Elizabeth remains trapped, a victim of past abuse.

    Then she unleashes Fred by opening the box and in a fit of pique, he responds to her growing up by smearing dog crap all over the carpet.

    Drop Dead Fred has come back because his whole job is to figure out how to make Elizabeth — Snot Face, as. he calls her — happy again. But can she be happy? Her father abandoned her to a mother who, at best, used words to make her never feel like she was right or if she mattered. And then, when she tries to assert herself, her mother places all the blame on her, saying that she’s too emotional or being silly. Of course you’d invent — or be open to — an imaginary friend.


  4. Party Girl - 1995, dir. Daisy von Scherler Mayer

    I haven’t thought about this movie in years and what a treat it was to revisit it. My wife and I just finished the most recent season of ‘Yellowjackets’ and the name of the season premiere director seemed very familiar. Low and behold, that’s because she directed on of the quirkiest, funniest, and crush-inducing movies of my teen years. I was too young to have caught this in theaters (or its groundbreaking internet premiere), but I remember seeing the box art at my neighborhood video store in the employee picks and thinking it was probably the standard “girl in the big city who works at the newspaper” rom com. I happened to catch it in the early 00s on maybe Bravo or VH1 when I was exactly the right age. I already had a huge crush on Posey from ‘The Day Trippers’, ‘Waiting for Guffman’, and ‘Scream 3’ (still do frankly, *see ‘Beau is Afraid’ for one of the most disturbing and hilarious things I’ve ever seen her do). I was convinced that we’d meet one day since she was from a small town right next to where I grew up. There’s still plenty of time is all I’m saying.

    What I loved about the movie then and what still holds up now, is just how true to life everything feels. The world is extremely dirty and rough around the edges, Mary’s apartment is a cinderblock box, the guy she falls for is super low status, work sucks, and she has no idea what she’s supposed to be doing with her life (or how to make those decisions herself). Also to the credit of vSM and her co-writers, there is no token black friend or token queer friend, but instead a LOT of queer and bipoc characters and they’re all just living their lives. In fact, any time Mary tries to use them for clout or mine their knowledge and experience, she’s pretty readily rebuffed and told to figure her own shit out or simply left hanging like a fool. It’s pretty refreshing for a movie to not bend over backward to make the lead’s life magical and easy. Mary actually puts in the work and tries her best to become a better librarian, but she’s not suddenly perfect after one night of binging the Dewey Decimal System manual.

    The stellar supporting cast is half faces you’d come to know - Live Schreiber, Guillermo Díaz, Anthony DeSando - and half unknowns you’d never see again, which also adds to the realism of the film. Everyone has enough dimension that they feel like they’re living their own movie. It’s one of those movies that made me realize how films CAN just be about normal people and normal shit and that’s still enjoyable.

  5. Shakes the Clown (1991)

    I haven't seen this since I was in college, but I remember absolutely loving this movie. On this viewing, I didn't enjoy it at all. Since the movie hasn't changed, I'm guessing this is more about how my sensibilities have changed since I first saw it. I still like the world that has been created with the clowns vs. the mimes, but the jokes don't land for me anymore. Plus, I am now bothered by little structural things like how the actual plot about being framed for murder doesn't even begin until the second half of the movie. But, I will admit it was nice to hear a Too Much Joy song over the end credits.

  6. CLEAN SLATE (1994, d. Mick Jackson)
    First-time watch on MGM DVD, 6/10.
    I'm not the first to think it, but I like to imagine Christopher Nolan buying opening weekend tickets to THE CROW & accidentally sitting down in the CLEAN SLATE theater.

  7. New-to-me: SKI PATROL (1990)
    An evil land developer wants to take over the town's ski slope, and the local ski patrol uses the power of wacky antics to stop him. But only after a lot of skiing montages, musical numbers, and rom-com stuff. A bunch of familiar character actors are here, including George Lopez, Leslie Jordan, Steve Hynter, Paul Feig (!), and Ray Walston, with Martin Mull hamming it up as the villain. This is way more PG-rated than others of its kind, going for gentle slapstick in place of anything more ribald. It's a perfectly fine 90-minute time waster.

    New-to-me: SKI SCHOOL (1991)
    I put this on to confirm whether it's the same movie as SKI PATROL. It isn't! This is a variation on "slobs vs. snobs" as a bunch of misfits take on the stuck-up preppies in a ski competition. This is the R-rated one. It's not all that funny, but it is very sleazy. I guess it's watchable if you're in the mood for some genuine trash.

    Old fave: MST3K: THE MOVIE (1996)
    Mike and the bots take on 1955's THIS ISLAND EARTH. It's a curious choice that they've been given the opportunity to make a feature, only to have it follow the exact format of the TV show. On the other hand, the silhouettes and the riffing are the heart of the show, so maybe the movie would have lost something if it strayed too far from that. It ends up not mattering, because there's a lot of big laughs and more time spent with our favorite robot pals.

    1. The making of this film is the reason Season 7 was only six episodes (versus 20+ for previous seasons), giving Comedy Central an excuse to cancel the show. I love MST3K: The Movie, but ultimately it was not worth the behind-the-scenes drama (Joel Hodgson left because of internal disputes), shortened season, Comedy Central cancellation and disappointment with the final product (only feeling like a very polished good episode instead of a movie proper). :-(

    2. Interesting. I knew there was a struggle to get the movie made, but I didn't know it was that extreme.

      Also, because it's in the "Old fave" category, I should say I saw the movie in '96 at Boston's late, lamented Nickelodeon Theater (a.k.a. the Nick) in the teeny screen with only 90 seats. What a magical little room that was, where you could see all kinds of niche movies not showing anywhere else.

    3. Ski School is very obnoxious. Dean Cameron was the only tolerable aspect to it for me.

  8. Career Opportunities (1991)

    Boy, that was terrible. Everything’s in bad taste here, from the unfunny, at times borderline offensive script by John Hughes, to the insipid direction and performances. The movie’s clearly shooting for the cool, irreverent, hangout tone of something like Ferris Bueller and Breakfast Club, but ends up just feeling stupid and obnoxious. Someone seriously overestimated Frank Whaley’s natural charisma and ability to command the screen with his incessant banter and mugging for the camera. And this being the 90s, there of course have to be ridiculous, cartoonish villains who are the final nail in the movie’s coffin. I’m not breaking any new ground by saying that young Jennifer Connelly is literally the only reason to sit through these 80 minutes of nothing, even though the script doesn’t do her any favors either. Worst movie I’ve seen this month by a wide margin.

  9. Black Sheep (1996)

    It had been so long since I'd seen this it felt like watching for the first time.

    When in the right mood, Chris Farley exuberance really works for me. Also, as a political science major, I always enjoy politics as comedy.

  10. WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE (1995, d/ Todd Solondz)
    Rewatch on Radiance BluRay, still 9/10.
    "Stop grade-grubbing."

    "Who told you to fight back?"

    This is still my favorite Solondz.

  11. An unintentional "meta before it was cool" Triple Feature!

    STAY TUNED (1992)
    Part Pleasantville, part Roger Rabbit, I don't know how I missed this movie as a kid, I would have loved it! As an adult I still had fun with it, and love some of the in-TV show spoofs they threw around throughout the film. Highly recommend! RIP John Ritter.

    Another movie I would have absolutely loved as a kid but for some stupid reason am only watching now. I had a blast with it and can't wait to revisit. Makes me even sadder about the stuff Arnold's making now with Netflix. Sigh.

    BOWFINGER (1999)
    I love this movie. I've always been a big Steve Martin fan, but Eddie Murphy's turn as Jiff steals the movie for me. That scene where he's petrified to run across the freeway kills me every time.

  12. Dick (1999, dir. Andrew Fleming)

    I don't know why I resisted seeing this since '99 but hearing Patrick sing it's praises somewhat recently made me finally sit down and watch this.. and of course I loved it. So good! Kirsten Dunst, Michelle Williams, and Dan Hedaya give hilarious performances, the writing is sharp and clever. I was entertained and smiling from start to finish. I miss comedies.

  13. PECKER (1998, d. John Waters)
    Rewatch on New Line DVD, 8/10 up from 7/10.

    “I need to see some gay ID or you’re outta here.”

    “I said, take out your units.”

    Accidental Sexton III double feature with WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE.

  14. BUFFALO '66 (1998, d. Vincent Gallo)
    Rewatch on Lionsgate BluRay, probably still 9/10.
    I only made it halfway before bedtime. It's been 15 or 20 years, but the love hasn't faded.

  15. I'm starting to feel "pooped" as well. And today was the first day my kids were able to join me, as they're in their exam period and also old enough to have their own plans outside of Junesploitation. Fargo would have been a great choice, as it is a movie I have been wanting to show them since forever. I chose wrong.

  16. "Fargo" is not exactly cheerful material (waiting for the right moment to introduce it to my stepmother) but it works on so many levels it's fine if your young ones don't get it... yet. 'Free Day!' is ideal to recharge the batteries (all movies/reviews are already done/typed) and prepare for the final stretch of the happiest month of the year. :-D

  17. Jawbreaker (1999)

    Hadn't seen this since I was 12 or 13, and while it didn't really hold up, there are still some funny parts. Rose McGowan is a great high school villain, and I could see potential for her role here to be better remembered if she was given a bit better material to work with (like a darker, alternate universe Regina George). The movie also makes me wish that Pam Grier had more detective parts!


    It is not easy turning a skit-style cartoon into an engaging feature film, but Mike Judge and company accomplished that. Though I would not say that everything works in ... DO AMERICA, I was always interested in seeing what crazy stuff would happen next. The cleverness of the film lies in the various sub-plots and characters added between the scenes of Beavis and Butt-Head being idiots. The parodies that are interspersed throughout the film also add variety to the experience. I especially liked the title characters as 1970s TV cops in the opening credits.

  19. Liar Liar (1997, dir. Tom Shadyac). The kids hadn't seen any of Carrey's comedy stuff, so we decided to watch this, one of the few I hadn't seen. They enjoyed it, but I really didn't. I was over his particular physical comedy in the first 5 minutes. I did rewatch Ace Ventura several years ago and thought it held up, so maybe it was just this movie and not Jim Carrey comedy stylings that I don't like.

    1. If I hadn't decided to rewatch old favorites "Liar Liar" was one of the new-to-me 90's comedies I was flirting with watching. Unlike you one "Ace Ventura" viewing was plenty back in the day, and was never a fan of Carrey's 'schtick' (just his dramatic work: "Truman Show," "Eternal Sunshine...," etc.). Guess I'm saying I'm glad I didn't watch "Liar Liar." :-)

  20. National Lampoon's Loaded Weapon 1 (1993)

    Pretty funny as far as parodies go. But nothing memorable. Just gag after gag after gag, but not in such a good way. The gratuitous beaver shot joke was really funny though.