Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Junesploitation 2023 Day 28: '80s Comedy!


  1. Wilt a.k.a. The Misadventures of Mr. Wilt (1989, dir. Michael Tuchner)

    Henry Wilt (Griff Rhys Jones) is an unhappy man who fantasizes about killing his overbearing wife. As a result of a prank, he ends up carrying an inflatable sex doll, which he dumps at a construction site. When his wife happens to go missing that same night and a witness has seen him apparently dumping a body, naturally he becomes the dogged Inspector Flint's (Mel Smith) suspect number one.

    I love Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones in their sketch shows Not the Nine O'Clock News (with Rowan Atkinson and Pamela Stephenson) and Alas Smith & Jones, but their joint movie career wasn't as succesful. After 1985's Morons from Outer Space (which I incidentally reviewed during Junesploitation 2019), their next movie together has much more of a coherent story, but is disappointingly light on laughs. Still, at least they're both likeable screen presences.



    Never seen a "Police Academy" flick from start to finish, just random clips/moments on cable. This is where it all started, a raunchy and very 'R' blockbuster comedy about Metropolitan Police in Anywhere USA (actually Toronto) lowering their standards and letting below-average civilians join the force. With Pat Proft ("Naked Gun," "Hot Shots!") and Neal Israel ("Bachelor Party," "Real Genius") co-writing alongside director Hugh Wilson ("Guarding Tess"), the tone/humor are pitched so high-up in the farce scale it's distracting. It's basically Ivan Reitman's "Stripes" with Steve Guttenberg as the Bill Murray-type, smart-ass would-be leader Mahoney tries to get thrown out from basic training but ends up liking it. This is where The Michael Winslow Sound Effects Show got started, Moses Hightower (Bubba Smith) steals scenes by being a car-flipping badass, Ted Ross' epic mustache hypnotizes children and Kim Cattrall looks adorable in uniform. A little of G.W. Bailey's Lieutenant Harris goes a long way (his shtick got irritating very quickly) while George Gaynes' Lassard is so good (that podium scene! :-D) at being Lloyd Bridges 2.0 he makes it look easy.

    I laughed a few times (The Blue Oyster club gags with Harris' redneck goons, a tossed apple starting a riot, Donovan Scott's Barbara finding his groove, etc.) and Robert Folk's uncredited music score is iconic, but I'm in no hurry to watch the remaining "PA" films (all streaming on MAX as of this writing). 2.5 "QUEER" DOGS NAMED PRINCESS (out of 5).

    REAL MEN (1987, TUBI)

    Seriously, Jim Belushi ("K-9") is outright imitating Bill Murray here. Mentally picture Bill instead of Jim on-screen in this role and the resemblance is uncanny. I didn't laugh once during this "Repo Man"-meets-"Midnight Run"-type road trip tale of a James Bond-type CIA agent (Belushi) teaming with a backbone-lacking family man ("Three's Company's" John Ritter) as they travel to Washington D.C. to make a "special delivery." And yet I don't hate "Real Men" because it commits to its weird Cold War, anything-goes lo-fi comedic tone wholeheartedly. Dozens of Russian secret agents and CIA-sanctioned clowns are eliminated left and right, at first by Belushi with ease but later on by Ritter as he develops a spine and confidence to stand his ground against petty criminals, bullies, etc. A fascinating misfire that I can picture someone else finding hilarious. R.I.P. John Ritter. :'( 2.5 FUTURE "MEN IN BLACK" ALIEN TROPES (out of 5).

    BONUS: MOVING (1988, TUBI)

    With a John Hughes-esque screenplay by Andy Breckman ("Rat Race") that's clever but also relatable, this would-be star vehicle for Richard Pryor surprised me by being a family-friendly 'R' rated comedy I can picture me watching with my own family Who can't relate to poor Arlo Pear and wife Monica (Beverly Todd) as they deal with the headaches of relocating their family from New Jersey to Idaho for a new job. Movers from hell (the too-obvious Pryor stunt double during the truck chase is hilarious), teen daughter (Stacey Dash) desperately trying to get married, nightmare neighbors (Randy Quaid in Cousin Eddie mode), multiple personality mad "men" driving Arlo's SAAB (Dana Carvey in a small standout role), bank managers that get no respect betting loan money on the ponies (wink), etc. At the center of this "Money Pit"-meets-"The Burbs" madness is Pryor as a likable straight man you can't help but want to hug and tell him everything's going be alright... but you can't because another shoe (lightning, lying home sellers, Frank's cousin, etc.) is always about to drop.

    I had to suspend my disbelief that in "Moving" men discuss the home sale economics without the wives, or that Monica never suggest looking for work to help the family stay in Jersey. That's the 80's for you. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Another Junesploitation! find I would have never sought without this day's push. Thanks Patrick. 4 EPIC LAWNMOWERS (out of 5).

    1. If you gave only 2.5 to Police Academy, i'd stop there. It doesn't get any better. I personally really like this series (with exception of the last one)

    2. I know that even Steve Guttenberg leaves later in the series, and he plays the most likable character aside from Hightower and Barbara. Frankly, based on the first I'm surprised that there are five more sequels to this even if they went 'PG' for the rest. Even "Naked Gun" ran way out of steam by 3, and they came out every few years. Six "Police Academy" movies in six years??!! :-O

  3. All of Me (1984, dir. Carl Reiner)

    Lily Tomlin's soul is transplanted into Steve Martin, so she controls half of his body and he controls the other half. This silly premise leads to an outright genius physical comedic performance by Martin. Can't believe it took me this long to watch this movie. Reiner's collaborations with Martin are so good. Highly Recommended.

  4. New-to-me: WHO’S HARRY CRUMB? (1989)
    John Candy plays a dimwitted private eye whose father and grandfather were the world’s greatest detectives. Now he gets his first big shot at a murder case, which he bumbles his way through. I’ll admit that I laughed at quite a few of Candy’s goofs, a lot of which I’m betting were ad libs. But then there are scenes when Harry goes undercover in disguise, and we get Candy in brownface. That’s just unfortunate, to the point where I can’t recommend this for anyone.

    Old fave: TEEN WOLF (1985)
    What can I possibly say about TEEN WOLF that hasn't already been said? It's really sleazy, it doesn't make a lot of sense, the finale basketball game goes on way too long, et cetera. Plus, all the wish-fulfilment stuff of becoming the coolest guy in school goes against the "just be yourself" moral the movie's trying to have. But... the movie is nonetheless charming in its way. I can't excuse the trashiness of it, yet I still feel it's a throwback to a simpler time and whatnot. Also, Stiles is actually the villain, right?

  5. THE BEST OF TIMES (1986, d. Roger Spottiswoode)
    First-time watch on Trimark DVD, 6/10.
    Midlife crisis dramedy about a football game years back. Robin Williams is difficult to picture as a football fan OR player, but Kurt Russell is easy. Will Russell reignite the flame with Pamela Reed?
    A bigger question is how Williams could obsess over a high school football game to the expensive of a still-hot marriage to Holly Palance.
    I'm scratching my head at sports in general, but come on, Williams.
    Easy entertainment with a great cast that doesn't completely work for me on a dramatic level.

  6. Munchies (1987)

    Any movie that has Harvey Korman as a space archaeologist is pretty much one I’m going to watch. I don’t know why it took me so long. I used to stare at this box in the video store and was just amazed that it had a little monster drinking a beer, smoking a cigar and looking up someone’s dress.

    That lil’ guy’s name is Arnold and he came from a cave in Peru. Simon’s son Paul (Charles Stratton) and his girlfriend Cindy (Nadine Van Der Velde, who was also in Critters) lose him to Simon’s evil twin, snack food magnate Cecil. The problems kick in when Cecil decides to draw and quarter Arnold after he tries to attack the snack king’s son. Instead of dying, he splits into four more creatures.

    How do you stop a Munchie? You electrocute it and that turns it into stone. I would not have guessed that, nor would I figure out that Machu Pichu was the toxic waste dump of the gods.

    Director Tina Hirsch was assistant editor on Woodstock and Hi, Mom! before heading out West and working for Roger Corman, editing Death Race 2000, Big Bad Mama and Eat My Dust. She also edited a lot of Joe Dante’s films, like Gremlins and Explorers. She’d always wanted to direct, Corman always wanted to make a Gremlins rip-off and hey, they made this in 12 days of human shooting and 3 days of puppet pick-ups.

    Seeing as how the Munchies drive an AMC Gremlim with an OHGIZMO license plate, I think that Hirsch, Corman and Dante were all on the same page.

    I am also legally obligated to mention that Paul Bartel is in this.

  7. Hollywood Shuffle (1987)

    An aspiring actor tries to make it in Hollywood, but bristles at only being able to audition for stereotypically "black" roles, which leads him to all sorts of enlightening and hilarious insights. Robert Townsend’s biting satire of the narrow-mindedness and systemic racism of the movie industry feels both vintage and timeless, because, sadly, things haven’t really progressed that much since 1987. Some of the movie’s in-your-face bits made me laugh out loud more than once, like the ad for Black Acting School or the Siskel & Ebert-style review show Sneakin’ Into Movies, featuring little spoofs of iconic stuff like Indiana Jones or Dirty Harry (two years before UHF did a similar thing). Highly recommended.

  8. Police Academy (1984)

    Maybe I just wasn't in the right head space, but I just wasn't feeling the vibe with this one. Maybe I'll revist at a later date...

  9. NINJA BUSTERS (1984, d. Paul Kyriazi)
    Rewatch on GarageHouse BluRay, 8/10 up from 7/10.
    I got to see this unreleased/lost flick on 35mm when Harry Guerro debuted his print at an Ex-Fest in Philadelphia. I think I enjoy it more the second time & that it'll hold up well to repeat viewings & group screenings. There's a hangout vibe with some breakdancing, some aerobics, a Latin nightclub & of course martial arts training until the heavy ninja action takes over the last third. The comedy generates from the goofball duo's goofballery, but the tone is consistently light despite all the action. NINJA BUSTERS isn't as unhinged as RAW FORCE, but this would make a nice warm-up for that masterpiece.

  10. Beverly Hills Cop (1984)

    A few small thoughts after watching an old favorite for the umpteenth time...

    The guy who plays Axel Foley's boss in Detroit is giving a hell of a performance. He seems like a real Detroit cop... because he is (was) one!

    Axel and Jenny have sneaky great friend chemistry. I love one of their first exchanges, when Axel tells Jenny she looks old, and she replies "fuck you" and makes a crack about his mustache. Then later, her imitation of Eddie Murphy's laugh is so funny, I swear his follow-up laugh is a natural, character-breaking reaction.

    I like that the other Beverly Hills cop partners (not Taggart and Rosewood) are pretty much just played as jerks all the way through. They don't really warm to Axel, and we don't really warm to them, and it just serves as a good contrast to Taggart and Rosewood. I particularly like how unfunny their dumb "anti-banana disguise" joke is. Screw those guys!

    It's funny that Damon Wayans is credited as "Banana Man."

  11. THE MAN WITH TWO BRAINS (1983, dir. Carl Reiner)

    What brains are the title referring to? I can think of a several options. Steve Martin is a man with an unpronounceable name who also is the greatest brain surgeon in the world. When he marries a gold digging wife (Kathleen Turner) who refuses to consummate the relationship, one “brain” gets frustrated. The other brain is that of a woman being kept alive by a mad scientist. Martin’s character developing a telepathic relationship with this brain is one of many weird directions this comedy takes. The Man With Two Brains is unusual in tone, parodying brain transplant films while also getting dark enough to feel like a horror film at certain moments. Steve Martin could play that kind of dark well. The film, in addition, takes some shots at other movie tropes, including film noir. I guess Kathleen Turner’s presence, coming not long after Body Heat came out, is the reason for that. The humor is alternately silly and played straight, and it is frequently of an R-Rated nature. I enjoyed this one.

  12. Amazon Women on the Moon - 1987, dir. Joe Dante, John Landis, Carl Gottlieb, Peter Horton, and Robert Weiss

    Anthologies tend to be mixed bags. Some segments are good to great, others are dull to poor. As long as it all evens out, right? This movie is a trail mix of peanuts, cranberries, old batteries, dryer lint, breath mints, rat poison, and one chocolate chip hiding at the bottom.

    Easily the best thing about this mess is the insane cast of comedy stalwarts (Arsenio Hall, Carrie Fisher, Ed Begley Jr., David Alan Grier, Joey Pants), weirdos (Henry Silva, Sybil Danning, Robert Picardo, Rip Taylor, The Dice Man), hot-at-that-moment young talent (Rosanna Arquette, Griffin Dunne, Michelle Pfeiffer, Guttenberg, Kelly Preston), classic old timers (Lou Jacobi, Ralph Bellamy, Steve Forrest), and apparently a ton of others who only appeared in segments from a TV/DVD cut of the film (Dick Miller, Robert Loggia, Bernie Casey, Ronny Cox, Jenny Agutter). You basically spend 80% of the run time staring blankly ahead while segments play with a ton of cringey horniness and no real punchline and the other 20% of the time doing the Leo meme as recognizable faces pop in.

    Landis’ segments are going hardest for laughs since they’re mostly people getting the shit beat of them and dicey racial humor. The real gems however, belong to Dante and Weird Al collaborator Robert Weiss. Their sketches don’t all work from a humor standpoint, but they’re the best examples of flawlessly aping the overall patina and mise en scéne of whatever media they’re riffing on - Siskel & Ebert, morality/public health PSAs, technicolor swashbucklers, and 50s Sci-Fi. Not the funniest comedy anthology, but at least the technical execution is mostly on-point.

    1. EDIT - Hooooly shit. I wrote a whole-ass review, went to look for a gif to post on Twitter, and found JB’s ‘Glutton for Punishment’ article on this movie. Basically everything I mentioned and critiqued he said more thoughtfully and eloquently nearly three years ago. Just go read his article:

  13. Who knows if anyone will see this but I just wanted to express the need for a 70s specific themed day or two for next Junesploitation. That's pretty much all I wanted to say... can you dig it?!