#1084 Savannah Smiles (1982)

I can think of thousands of ways Savannah Smiles could’ve gone very wrong; a tale of two criminals in a run after a jailbreak inadvertently kidnapping a young girl is a delicate subject even for 1982, and a theme that would never go through the executives these days.

What happens afterwards is of course foreseeable. The young girl touches the hearts of the fugitives who let their shields down for the first time and grow attached to her. And Savannah in return finds love and comfort she lacked back home.

What makes this movie tick is the heartfelt change the leads Mark Miller and Donovan Scott manage to convey, as well as the the apparent love that Miller – who also wrote the manuscript – had for the subject.

80s-o-meter: 61%

Total: 65%

#1083 Loverboy (1989)

If my memory serves me correctly, I watched Loverboy just a bit before I started this project and so it probably served as some kind of catalyst back then.

Watching the movie now I was actually pretty impressed how well it all comes together. It addresses the obvious genre pitfalls nicely, does a good job of not antagonising the main character without really letting him away with it too easily, ties much of the mishaps together really nicely and is just genuinely funny at times.

While I can’t say I’m big fan of 80s all too wimpy, prior to getting hit with a handsome stick Patrick Dempsey, Loverboy does mark for his strongest comedic role I’ve witnessed so far.

80s-o-meter: 90%

Total: 86%

#1082 Can She Bake a Cherry Pie? aka Café New York (1983)

If you dislike indie artsy cinema, Can She Bake a Cherry Pie is precisely the kind of movie that would make you hate them even more.

Shot ad-libbing (or so it seems) in New York, the movie shows a recently separated woman and middle aged man entering a relationship where they have sex and go through their neuroses. Watching the movie felt as if I was 6 years old again and having to listen to the adults having a tediously long and boring talks. But it’s even worse than that; here the people are in their underwear while having these long, yawn inducing discussions.

And as if the movie wasn’t artsy enough, it’s interrupted from time to time with needless bits of Orson Welles doing a cameo as a magician trying to make some animals disappear as well as clips of the lead Karen Black singing various musical numbers in some local improv.

80s-o-meter: 71%

Total: 1%

#1081 Shanghai Surprise (1986)

Shanghai Surprise was supposed to be a sure hit: A comedic adventure taking place in the exotic 1930s Shanghai featuring Madonna and young Sean Penn, both guaranteed box office magnets.

The general finger or blame seems to point to Madonna – a pop star turned to actor – but despite being really uncomfortable in her role as a missionary, the real problem of the movie is that it’s just plain dull to watch. George Harrison who produced the film deemed necessary to write the soundtrack as well, and his Beatlesque pop songs just don’t work at all – not with the setting nor the era. Penn who has an uncanny ability to make any role his, can’t do much with the two dimensional frames he is given here and ends up creating some sort of weak pastiche from various men leads from classic romantic adventures, with a stub that pretty much looks like it was doodled on with a ball point pen.

Shanghai Surprise is an UK production that got picked up for the blog merely because of its leads and a little bit of personal curiousness – and I got a good reminder to be a little less curious in the future.

80s-o-meter: 55%

Total: 45%

#1080 Vibes (1988)

Cyndi Lauper, Jeff Goldblum and Peter Falk as the leads are the part of the Vibes that works.

Much of the adventure bit really don’t, and Vibes ends up something of a weaker iteration of The Golden Child released two years before, with bit of additional psychic mumbo jumbo and a hint of Indiana Jones thrown in the mix. While the first half of the movie feels like stalling as the protagonists never seems to be able to make it to the actual expedition, as the adventure part starts it turns out to be much weaker portion of the movie. Including the final encounter with the pyramid that looks as if was haphazardly put together with bit of a plexiglass and hot glue, making it one of the least impressive MacGuffins I’ve seen to date.

Luckily much of the humour works, which along with the strong cast makes Vibes tolerable, if not outright recommendable experience.

80s-o-meter: 74%

Total: 61%

#1079 Hello Again (1987)

If you think about, considering that we all know movies are make believe it’s pretty amazing how much we’re willing to cut them some slack in terms of realism. We prefer a good story to realism and sympathise with characters we know never existed and it really takes a considerable load of baloney for us to lose our faith in the story.

Throughout its running time Hello Again tries these limits: Starting from improbable, moving onto unlikely, all the way through poppycock, ending somewhere between ridiculous, moronic – and downright painful.

I do love Shelley Long. She’s one great comedienne at her very best in easy going, fluffy comedies. But Hello Again is just too much nonsense for anyone with half a brain take in.

80s-o-meter: 85%

Total: 39%

#1077 Elvira: Mistress of the Dark (1988)

Panned by the critics and loved by the broad audience, Elvira: Mistress of the Dark is a wonderfully quirky comedy powered single-handedly by the actress Cassandra Peterson and her wonderful, quick witted late night TV host character.

On the superficial level Elvira, who makes absolutely zero effort to hide her abundant bosom, might seem sexist especially from today’s puritanical point of view. But it has to be noted that this is her fantasy character, created and made iconic on her terms. Far from a victim of male-driven entertainment industry, she’s kind of an epitome of girl power; not willing to take cheap from anyone and ending up on the upper hand thanks to her sharp tongue. And it’s these witty comebacks that are the real comedy core of the movie and did provide plenty of few good laughs along the way.

Had the movie pressed on the gas pedal towards the end instead of sliding to the finish line like it had ran out of gas, and wrapped up without the uninspired Las Vegas bit, my final score might’ve been even more generous than Elvira’s famous cleavage.

80s-o-meter: 91%

Total: 90%

#1074 Memories of Me (1988)

How’s my relationship with Billy Crystal? Well.. it’s complicated. I’ve liked him in most movies I’ve seen since child, but as the time has passed, I’ve noticed that his comedy schtick gets old really fast. In fact, I like him much better when he drops the witty act and gets down, dirty and serious with his acting.

In Memories of Me this happens right after Abbie (Billy Crystal) finally meets his father who left his family and ran off to Hollywood when Abbie was still a kid. It’s at this moment when a so-and-so movie about a top surgeon recovering from a heart attack turns into an actually interesting study about the difficulty of building a relationship with a person obsessed on being the life of a party that everybody loves – but totally at loss when it comes to showing real love for anyone close to him.

The real power of the movie is the raw energy as Crystal and Alan King as his father clash together with such intensity it feels almost as stomach churning as if you’d just had a fight of a lifetime with your own parents. Dialogue in Memories of Me also surprises positively; not only is it well written, but both leads manage to deliver their lines without a trace of insincerity.

80s-o-meter: 86%

Total: 82%

#1072 Jekyll and Hyde… Together Again (1982)

There are movies that I look forward to watching at some point, and then there are the ones that I just have to get over with. Jekyll and Hyde… Together Again is definitely of the latter variety: I could tell already from the poster that this is going to be one of those stuffy early 80s comedies with the roots firmly in the mid-70s, and a quick glance through the chapters confirmed that I wasn’t in for a treat.

Much to my surprise the first 20 minutes of the movie aren’t that bad at all, and there are some genuinely funny visual gags here. It’s when the transformation to the sex crazy Hyde happens that the movie goes completely to the shitter.

I loathed the movie and its design choices. The chance of a possibly passable crazy comedy is ruined by an annoying lead character and on top of it all the movie manages to completely waste the talent of Tim Thomerson.

80s-o-meter: 32%

Total: 3%

#1071 Hanky Panky (1982)

Hanky Panky plays it safe.

Far too safe, in fact: It gives us the basic story of a man wrongly accused of a murder that soon finds himself tangled in an international espionage ploy.

It really feels like a rehash since Gene Wilder’s previous comedy Stir Crazy already presented us with a similar plot. There are some funny aspects here, like Wilder foolishly trying to outwit the powers that be, but otherwise Hanky Panky ends up pretty eventless, predictable and bland adventure comedy.

80s-o-meter: 68%

Total: 43%

#1066 How to Beat the High Cost of Living (1980)

How to Beat the High Cost of Living has been the longest project for me to watch so far. I remember picking it first up over ten years ago, watching the first 30 minutes and forgetting to finish it and then a few years later giving it another try only to leave it unfinished again.

I kind of understand why this was. Although the movie is not that by itself, there’s just nothing engaging enough here to keep the interest up; three housewifes struggle with money problems, set up a heist and pull it off with a few mishaps along the way, none of them too amusing.

The cast is strong with the strong woman trio as the lead and Dabney Coleman in a supporting role – but all of them have starred in much better movies since.

80s-o-meter: 61%

Total: 46%

#1064 Homer and Eddie (1989)

Homer and Eddie is a road movie about two outcasts ending up unlikely travel companions on their way to Oregon.

While the movie starts as a lighthearted, vapid comedy, it starts to get more interesting tones when Eddie starts to have her violent rages: When the bystanders start dying the viewer is forced to really reassess how they view Eddie.

Jim Belushi is likeable as Homer but in reality the role is beyond his limits and he comes across as an actor doing a poor impression of a disabled person. Oscar winning material this ain’t. Whoopi’s portrayal of Eddie has similar problems with the credibility as Goldberg can never shake off the strong impression of a Hollywood actress playing a Hollywood version of a hobo.

Poor execution and lack of chemistry between the leads leaves Homer and Eddie feel like a worse movie than it probably is. Maybe it’s time for someone to pick this up for a reshoot?

80s-o-meter: 85%

Total: 59%

#1063 The Lonely Guy (1984)

I saw The Lonely Guy during the 90s when I was in my early teens when contemplating on getting me a girlfriend, and remembering how the story spoke to me already back then. Watching the movie now, it’s that same theme of ending up alone and coping with it any which way one can that still feels fresh today.

But, I’d forgotten about the later half of the movie where the lonely guy writes a book about his experiences, becomes famous and consequently an ex-lonely guy – and it’s from this point on that the movie becomes tediously average. It’s a shame; thanks to snappy writing and the awesome comedy talent of Steve Martin and Charles Grodin the lonely guy schtick was nowhere getting old at this point.

Nonetheless, it’s the strong first half alone that still easily warrants watching the movie.

80s-o-meter: 86%

Total: 80%

#1060 Munchies (1987)

Be it an extra terrestrial, slasher killer or furry little creature, every time some character becomes hugely popular in movies the copycat products start popping up left right and center. After the huge success of Gremlins, we’ve had to stomach through Critters, Ghoulies, Hobgoblins and now Munchies – which might the weakest link of them all.

The foul-mouthed Munchies come from outer space, resemble noticeably the full grown Gremlins, are far too interested in woman mammaries for being aliens and multiply once cut in two. And boy do the people start cutting them. The resemblance to Gremlins stop here as Munchies are remarkably badly animated and never manage to feel nothing but hand puppets.

As there are only very little horror elements here (the threat posed by them seems like a minor annoyance at the best) coupled with how the movie fails to deliver any laughs, Munchies can’t possibly be perceived nothing but a failure. It kind of works at times when the creatures stay hidden, but takes a deep nose dive as soon as they appear on screen.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 39%

#1058 Who’s Harry Crumb? (1989)

Word of warning: What follows is a biased review as Who’s Harry Crumb happens to be a comedy I’ve seen a countless times as a kid and had a huge crush on the young Shawnee Smith.

John Candy is Harry Crumb, an eccentric private detective hired to investigate a kidnapping case, and lots of physical comedy and disguises ensue. Think Fletch’s idiotic but more sympathetic brother and you got a hang of Crumb.

Watching the movie now some 25 years later the movie still works fairly well thanks to the great comedic work of Candy and Jeffrey Jones, and aided by Tim Thomerson and Barry Corbin in the side roles. I couldn’t help but to notice how raunchy it was which was surprise as the movie seems otherwise aimed for the 12-year old audience. On the other hand I can’t remember being bothered by this as a kid at all.

While I’m being totally generous with the rating, it’s believe it’s much deserved every time your old favourite does not let you completely down.

80s-o-meter: 92%

Total: 85%

#1057 Best Defense (1984)

A cautionary example of two wrongs not making the right, Best Defense is a movie that got a bad reception when shown to test audience upon its completion and in a panic attempt to recover the project the studio decided to fix things by hiring young Eddie Murphy to star in additional segments then glued haphazardly on top of the original movie in post production.

Yeah, it wasn’t a good call at all. On top of spending a staggering amount of $ getting Murphy, the added shots of him driving around in a malfunctioning tank in desert contribute nothing to the movie and make an already so-and-so movie a total mess.

Without the butchering, Best Defense would’ve landed safely as one of the mostly harmless comedies of the 80s, but now it will only stand out a warning example of too many cooks annihilating the broth.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 37%

#1056 The Hollywood Knights (1980)

The Hollywood Knights follows a gang high school fraternity of the post–World War II baby boom generation during one long halloween night of 1965 as they go around playing nasty pranks to teachers, policemen and fellow students.

Considering that the pranks aren’t particularly funny, nor creative – pissing to a punch bowl is as high brow as it gets – they are showcased far too much in the movie. The real human interest story of the young couple played by Tony Danza and Michelle Pfeiffer is bypassed with a few quick shots and does not get the attention it deserves. Same goes for the story of Jimmy, one of the Hollywood Knights, who’s enlisted and heading to Vietnam unbeknownst of the horrors that await there. Although this part of the movie is better handled, I would’ve liked to see more even more emphasis on this side of the story.

What makes this movie is not its plot, characters nor even its humour, but the way it successfully invites the viewer to be a part of this one wild night as one of the Hollywood Knights.

80s-o-meter: 55%

Total: 68%

#1055 Nobody’s Perfekt (1981)

You remember those older, round backed, worn out VHS tape cases in a distant corner of a video rental store that nobody really checked through anymore? Nobody’s Perfekt is a typical movie you’d find stacked in a pile like this.

Three fellows suffering from minor mental defects wreck their car on a pot hole and take a revenge on the city hall, specifically the mayor. Their cunning plan includes stealing a cannon and hitching a ferry and they end up on the tail of a bunch of criminals doing a heist.

The movie is generally good natured, but mostly with witless gags with the punch lines visible miles away. A random customer checking out the video might’ve been somewhat content with the selection back in mid 80s, but unless you identify as one, it’s best to leave this one at the video rack.

80s-o-meter: 74%

Total: 19%

#1054 Micki & Maude (1984)

A man in a severe baby fever impregnates his wife and lover at the same time in Micki & Maude, a period piece of a comedy done in the era when sexual revolution was just turning to baby boom.

As you’d imagine, most of the comedy here is derived from the close calls of the two brides almost bumping into each other, and ending up having a labour together which feels such a predictable move that it felt tired instantly the scene had started. Although, there is one recurring gag, involving a great sweatshirt that does pay off in the end providing one of the better belly laughs of the movie. Much of the carrying of the movie is done by the lead Dudley Moore, who manages to pull off the despicable role while remaining lovable and funny, and it’s easy to seem what a complete disaster the film could’ve been in more unexperienced hands.

Micki & Maude has the much too common problem of cooking up a drama much too big to be resolved in a satisfactory way, leaving the writer no options but to weasel out of the situation with a wishy-washy, lukewarm solution in the end.

80s-o-meter: 81%

Total: 62%

#1053 Volunteers (1985)

Tom Hanks and John Candy star as Peace Corps volunteers send to a small Thai village to build a bridge in Volunteers, an adventurous, never-quite-funny comedic take on The Bridge on the River Kwai, something of an odd target for a parody.

It takes quite a while for the Volunteers to find its tone of voice; it’s only towards the last 30 minutes of the movie that it starts to be enjoyable. Before that the movie feels much disoriented and shoddy and the bad camerawork where most subjects seem out of focus and oddly framed. It seems that the movie can’t really make up what it’d want to be, exactly; even the elements of crazy comedy are tried out at one point when the characters start reading the subtitles superimposed to the screen, which seems bit of a faux pas.

If I was to judge Volunteers only by its end part, it would rate nearer the 80 point mark as it manages to press many feel good buttons in the last minutes. But as a whole the movie can’t really be recommended, even if you’re a fan of the comedy of Hanks or Candy.

80s-o-meter: 78%

Total: 61%