Bruce Willis does Baby Talk in “Look Who’s Talking”

In the late 1980’s, there were a crop of “baby pictures” released, which entailed the main characters looking after an infant. These included “Three Men and a Baby” (1987), “Baby Boom” (1987) ,””For Keeps”? (1988) and today’s subject, Amy Heckerling’s 1989 comedy, “Look Who’s Talking”. The best part that makes the movie stand out from all the other baby related movies? Bruce Willis provides the internal thoughts for the baby!

The plot follows New York accountant Mollie Jensen (Kirstie Alley), who has been having an affair with her married client Albert (George Segal), for quite some time. When she becomes pregnant from the tryst, Albert at first offers to stand by her, but then double crosses her by cheating with another woman, leaving her to be a single parent. After a heated public confrontation between Mollie and Albert, she goes into labour, and happens into the taxi of friendly cab driver James (John Travolta). He gets her to the hospital on time, and stays around to help for the birth of  baby Mikey.

A few days later,  James stops by to return Mollie’s purse, which she’d left in the back of his cab in the ensuing drama.  He immediately bonds with Mikey, and acts as his babysitter in order to help Mollie out. Mollie, determined to give Mikey the best possible father figure, starts dating an assortment of men, but none of them seem to fit the bill.  As time passes, sparks begin to fly between Mollie and James, with Mikey giving his two cents along the way. It’s actually a lot more funnier than it sounds!

Even though the movie may verge into silly territory at times, it works because of the charisma of the leading players. Travolta has been on record as stating that his role of James is the closest to his real life personality. The similarities don’t stop there – both James and Travolta are pilots on the side. He interacts well with Kirstie Alley, and they make a convincing “will they/won’t they couple”. Willis delivers a hysterical vocal performance as the baby. It’s worth noting while Willis and Travolta are the best of pals in this movie, just a few years later in “Pulp Fiction” (1994), they played anything but friends!

Some highlights of this flick include James dancing with Mikey to the Katrina and the Waves hit “Walking on Sunshine”, and again to Gene Pitney’s “Town without Pity” with Mollie in the kitchen, proving that Travolta has still got the dance moves he showcased in classics like “Saturday Night Fever” (1977) or “Grease” (1978). There are also a series of comical imagination sequences, frequently experienced by Mollie. These range from her considering whether or not her various dates will make a suitable father for Mikey based on how they treat the waiter, to her literally hanging atop of a clock tower after being told that her “biological clock is ticking”.

The movie was followed by two sequels- “Look who’s Talking Too” (1991), which features the exploits of Mikey and his young half sister Julie, who is voiced by Roseanne Barr. The second sequel, “Look Who’s Talking Now” (1993), doesn’t rely on the kids’ thoughts being heard, since they’re now old enough to speak for themselves. However, Diane Keaton and Danny DeVito are on board, as the voices of the two family dogs . While both of these movies are enjoyable in their own ways, they don’t compare to the original, in my opinion.

“Look Who’s Talking” earns 4 out of 5 stars, as it’s a warm, engaging comedy that worth seeing if you’re a fan of any of the leads, if you like baby themed movies, or if you fancy hearing Bruce Willis engage in providing the thoughts of an infant, in contrast to his more action orientated roles.  Happy viewing!

“Spaceballs” – Going where No “Star Wars” Parody has gone Before

On the 25th of May, 1977, a little movie entitled “Star Wars”: A New Hope was released in theatres worldwide.  A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far, away,  Luke Skywalker, ( Mark Hamill),a humble farmboy, gets thrust into an intergalactic war, and must rescue a princess from distress. As you all know, the franchise is possibly one of the most iconic out there, next to “Lord of the Rings”, “Harry Potter”, “James Bond” and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 2017 marks the 40th anniversary of this acclaimed series. So, to celebrate, I’m going to review  Mel Brook’s 1987 parody “Spaceballs”, which gleefully sends up all of the common tropes and plot lines from George Lucas’ classic space odyssey adventure, and while the plot closely rehashes many elements of the original trilogy, it also pokes fun of other TV shows and movies, such as “Star Trek”, “Jaws”, “Alien” and “Planet of the Apes”, in very much the same fashion as the “Airplane” or “Naked Gun” movies!

In “Spaceballs”,  the villainous Dark Helmet (Rick Moranis) plots to capture spoiled princess Vespa (Daphne Zuniga) and deprive her planet Druidia of air. It’s up to scruffy space jockey Lone Starr (Bill Pullman) and his loyal mawg (Half-man, half-dog) sidekick Barf (John Candy) to step up to the challenge and rescue her. Along the way, they encounter some parodies of “Star Wars” characters, such as the CP30 inspired bot, Dot Matrix (voiced by Joan Rivers), gangster Pizza the Hut (Dom DeLuise), and the sage mentor Yoghurt (played by Brooks himself), who advises our heroes to use the power of “the schwartz” when necessary.

In one word, “Spaceballs”, is, well, ridiculous. However, it’s cheerfully aware of its own absurdity, and has the characters acknowledge that they’re in a movie several times by openly “breaking the forth wall, so to speak. This is brilliantly conveyed in one particular scene, in which Helmet and his underling, Colonel Sandurz (George Wyner) actually watch “Spaceballs: The Movie” in order to get a solution to their current dilemma, and end up viewing themselves viewing themselves in the actual scene that we’re currently watching! A similar joke also involves Yoghurt brandishing “Spaceballs” merchandise, including t-shirts, lunchboxes and a flamethrower.

Another favourite gag towards the end of the movie involves a cameo from the late actor, John Hurt, in a replication of his famous “chestbuster” scene from the original “Alien” (1979) movie. This  comes complete with the alien performing a ragtime dance number in the style of Michigan J. Frog from the old cartoon short “One Froggy Evening”. Hurt’s reaction of “Not again” , makes the spectacle all the more funnier.

John Candy, as always, is as brilliant with his jokes as ever. In addition to Yoghurt, Brooks also plays ditsy Spaceball president  Skroob, and Rick Moranis, best known for playing nerdy characters in works such as “Ghostbusters” and “Honey, I shrunk the kids”.

“Spaceballs” is a fun movie to watch, and I give it 3 out of 5 stars in total. Even if you’re not a fan of the “Star Wars” franchise, you may enjoy many of the cultural gags and references that are scattered throughout.  The movie was followed by a short lived animated adaptation decades later, but it didn’t fare too well, and was axed by the network before it even aired. Its brand of humour won’t suit to everyone’s tastes. Nevertheless, I would still recommend giving this flick a watch, anyway. May the schwartz be with you!

“Secret Admirer”- Possibly one of the Oddest Teen movies of the 80’s?

Greetings and salutations, everyone! My apologies for my prolonged absence from this blog. I hope to remedy this problem with my next selection of reviews in the foreseeable future, so please stay tuned for more 80’s content!

I have seen my far share of corny movies in my time. Some can be charming in their ridiculousness.However, some can seem to  have all the makings of a typical 80’s teen romp, yet attempt to do do more than its material knows what to do with. This brings us to today’s subject: “Secret Admirer” (1985). The plot synopsis appears to be rather straightforward at first glance, but as the movie progresses, you’ll find that it’s anything but simple!

The Plot in a Nutshell: Michael Ryan (C. Thomas Howell) is your standard 80’s high school student who is infatuated with the blonde, seemingly unattainable Deborah Anne Fimple (Kelly Preston), while his brunette platonic friend Toni (Lori Loughlin) harbors a covert crush on him from afar. When Michael receives an anonymous letter in his locker, his buddy Roger (Casey Siemaszko) convinces Michael that Deborah Anne is the sender, despite her already having a college boyfriend in Steve (Scott McGinnis). He decides to reciprocate by sending Debbie a letter of his own. However, he proves to be less than a skilled writer, so Toni secretly doctors it before delivering it to Debbie, who instantly becomes smitten with Michael.

At this point, you’d think you know what to expect from a movie in this genre, right? Well, not so with this one! You see, the love letter ends up in a bag belonging to Michael’s father, George (Cliff DeYoung), who is taking a night school business class from Debbie’s mother Elizabeth (Leigh Taylor Young ). Naturally, George mistakenly thinks that the letter is from Elizabeth, and they engage in one of those comedic tropes I’ve always loathed, in which two characters talk about two completely different things, but somehow think that they’re discussing the same subject, which is typically laden with a string of sexual innuendos. It would be easier if they could just figure out the misunderstanding and sort it out, but then we wouldn’t have “hysterical” shenanigans!

Meanwhile, Debbie and Michael start to date and hit it off, much to Toni’s jealousy. And if that wasn’t bad enough, Debbie’s tough police officer father, Lou (Fred Ward) uncovers the letter in his wife’s purse, where Debbie had previously hidden it, and suspecting the worst, seeks out the help of George’s wife Connie (Dee Wallace Stone) in order to catch out their offending partners in the act. How’s this one going to pan out?

Actor/Character Observations: Lori Loughlin, as Toni, delivers possibly one of the more rounded performances in this picture, and is likable enough that you want to see her get the guy. C. Thomas Howell is credible enough in this movie, although wooden in places, and Kelly Preston is convincing enough for the most part as the stereotypical blonde popular girl. The adult actors do try to make the material they have to work with plausible, but it comes off as being preposterous.

My Favourite Scene(s) in “Secret Admirer”: Although many scenes in this movie are way too outlandish and over the top to take seriously, especially those between the adults, there are a few genuine, tender moments between the teenagers, especially the conversations between Michael and Toni, which compensates slightly for the more hammy and forced hiumours involving the adults. The actors have just the right amount of chemistry together which makes it seem believable that they could be close friends.

My Least Favourite Scene(s) in “Secret Admirer”: One scene which made me cringe, in addition to the aforementioned “double meaning conversation scene”,  was a confrontation between the parents late in the movie, where a tense meeting during a card game gradually segues into a full scale brawl between Lou and George,  culminating in tables being overturned and food splattering everywhere, which is obviously designed to be funny, but mostly comes off as being awkward and try hard. In general, many of the parent’s scenes feels as though it belongs in a separate  movie involving cheating spouses and adultery, and not as a side plot to a light-hearted teen comedy.

Actors Before They were Famous: A few years after this movie, Lori Loughlin got her big break from portraying Aunt Becky in “Full House”, which incidentically had an episode play out like the plot of this movie. The late Cory Haim appears in a bit part as Michael’s bratty kid brother, Jeff, who by stealing the letter, sends most of the plot into motion. Finally, Casey Siemaszko would pop up in “Back to the Future”, which was released a month after “Secret Admirer”, as one of Biff’s cronies.

Ratings and Recommendations: I award “Secret Admirer” a total of 2 out of 5 stars. While it’s generally an inoffensive, harmless teen movie, some of the characters aren’t that likable or relatable, with the exception of Toni, and many scenes just feel gratuitous, as though they’re present merely to increase the movie’s running time. Even though I gave “Can’t Buy Me Love”(1987) some flack for being too formulaic when I critiqued it, at least I can give it some credit for knowing what kind of story it wanted to tell.

In my opinion, “Secret Admirer” might have been better off if it had focused solely on the teenagers and their romantic entanglements, and not so much on the parents. I may not have enjoyed this movie to the same extent as other teen movies, and while it certainly isn’t the most memorable, you’ll enjoy the sheer ridiculousness of it all if you don’t analyse it too much. Until next time!

Elisabeth Shue beats the Babysitting Blues in Classic 80’s Comedy

Hi there! Since the Disney Channel’s remake of “Adventures in Babysitting” starring Sabrina Carpenter and Sofia Carson premiered  as the 100th Disney Channel Original Movie recently, I decided that I would also view its 1987 predecessor of the same name, directed by Chris Columbus, who was also in the director’s chair in the first two movies in the Harry Potter Franchise, as well as “Home Alone”, “Gremlins” and “Mrs Doubtfire”.

Growing up, I used to dub this movie as “The Female Ferris Bueller Movie”, as even though the plots are vastly different from each other, they both deal with the characters having adventures through the course of only a few hours. And naturally, both deal with the main characters having to race to get home before the parents do. So, how does “Adventures in Babysitting” hold up almost 3 decades after its initial release?

The Plot in a Nutshell: It was only supposed to be a simple babysitting gig… Chris Parker (Elisabeth Shue) is your average suburban teenager who is anticipating date night with her hunky boyfriend Mike (Bradley Whitford), when he cancels on her at the last minute. So she’s lumbered with having to babysit the two Anderson kids, precocious and sarcastic Sara, (Maia Brewton), who has an obsession with sledgehammer wielding superhero Thor,  and sensitive older brother Brad (Keith Coogan), who has his own obsession in the form of an unrequited crush on his babysitter. Chris gets a sudden phone call from her runaway best friend Brenda (Penelope Ann Miller), who is stuck is a dodgy bus station in the middle of the Chicago city. After being blackmailed by Brad’s sleazy friend Daryl (Anthony Rapp) into taking him along with them, the quartet take off to pick up Brenda.

On route, Chris’ car gets a flat wheel , prompting them to hitch a lift with  one-armed trucker”Handsome” John Pruitt (John Ford Noonan), who seems friendly, until he finds out that his wife is cheating on him, that is. Following a shootout against the adulterous pair, Chris and the kids make a break for a getaway vehicle, right as it’s being stolen by amicable car thief Joe Gipp (Calvin Levels). This leads them to them being on the run from gangsters/car thieves after Daryl steals a Playboy with crucial information written on (and the model just so happens to resemble Chris- what are the chances?)

From there, the night just gets more crazier from that moment on, with their crazy excursion leading them to a blues club, a college party, where they run into helpful college student Dan(George Newbern), and a climax which involves a skyscraper tower. Will our heroes ever make it back before the Anderson parents?

Actor/Character Observations: Even though I felt that Elisabeth Shue’s character in “The Karate Kid” was rather bland, here I feel that because her character was of the most importance this time round, she actually carries the movie along. And the kid actors here given funny  lines, and generally weren’t annoying, as some child actors are prone to be. Out of the three kids, I enjoyed Sara the most, as she had some of the best quips. Coogan’s Brad was sweet and at times pitiful, thanks to his unattainable crush on Chris.

My Favourite Scene(s) in “Adventures in Babysitting”: The scene where Chris and her babysitting charges find themselves in a blues club following a chase from the gangsters and are forced to improvise a blues number to get off the stage. Chris sings a ditty inspired by her hectic night, with the blues musicians backing them up, complete with real life musician Albert Collins making an appearance as himself. The 2016 Disney remake converted this scene into a rap battle ,as a way to appeal to contemporary generations. In my case, it simply made me cringe for the entirety of its duration, and didn’t compare to the blues scenario of the original.

My Least Favourite Scene(s) in “Adventures in Babysitting”: I may be in the majority with this, both I found the scene towards the end of the movie where the quartet have to sneak into a party where Brad and Sara’s parents attending seems would have to get my vote for the scene I found tiresome. It appears to be more slapstick in tone than the rest of the movie, and the bulk of that scene features Chris having to don a mink coat to evade the possibility of the Andersons spotting her. It just didn’t work well at all for me.

Actors before they were Famous: Believe it or not, but Daryl’s actor, Anthony Rapp, would go on to originate the role of aspiring filmmaker Mark Cohen in the first production of legendary musical “Rent”. Similarly, Bradley Whitford, as the caddish Mike, later went on to have a career on the successful political show, “The West Wing”. (Even though Mike is presumably a high school senior, like Chris and Brenda, Whitford was 28 at the time, and he looks every one of those years!) Finally, Vincent D’Onofrio, from “Full Metal Jacket”, “Men in Black” and “Jurassic World” fame, cameos as Dawson, the garage boss.

Ratings and Recommendations: I’d give “Adventures in Babysitting” a solid rating of 3 and a half stars out of five. While some of the situations that our heroes find themselves in border on being slightly ridiculous, chances are that you’ll just go along with the plot, regardless of the lack of realism presented.

If you liked this feature, then I’d recommend viewing “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” (you can read my review of the flick here.) If you’re interested in seeing the Disney remake, which has toned down many of the adult themes of the 80’s classic (namely omitting the swearing and the Playboy subplot), I’d suggest watching that with younger children. Please let me know if you’ve seen the reboot, and whether you prefer the classic or original flick!

 

A Slapstick Christmas Vacation is to be had with the Griswolds!

Everyone has heard of the National Lampoon movies. In fact, they may have risen to prominence over the last few years. Each of these flicks focus on the zany exploits of the Griswold clan, headed by well-meaning but bumbling patriarch Clark W. Griswold (Check Chase). We’ve followed them on their adventures on “Vacation”, in”Vegas” and in “Europe”, with each outing inevitably getting them into all sorts of awkward shenanigans.

More recently, there was a rather mediocre attempt to replicate the comedy and hilarity of the previous installments in “Vacation”, which features many of the same material, but with less of the charm, as the Griswold son, Rusty (Ed Helms) tries to give his family the same joyous vacation experiences as the ones he was introduced to.

While I  certainly wasn’t a fan of that reboot, my favourite of the series has got to be “Christmas Vacation”, which is the only film where the Griswolds stay at home, with the action primarily circulating on preparing for Christmas. As you might guess, things never go as simply as you may expect, especially if your name is Clark Griswold!

In this installment, Clark is determined to have himself a festive holiday , with the added perks of a Christmas bonus from his job with his patient, long-suffering wife Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo) and kids Rusty and Audrey (here played by Johnny Galecki and Juliette Lewis, in keeping with the running gag of the Griswold kids having different actors each movie). But alas, it’s not to be, Clark gets into all sorts of antics over the season. From Clark’s goofy Cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid) who lives in a Recreational Vehicle, snobbish neighbours Todd ( Nicholas Guest) and Margo (Julia Louis Drefus), and Mary (Nicolette Scorsese), a comely lingerie saleswoman who somehow sends Clark into a fluster, especially when his son Rusty cottons onto him! Add a feral squirrel, a kidnapped boss and a hostage situation, and you’ve got one heck of a Christmas!

The humour of the “National Lampoon” movies might not appeal to everyone’s tastes, as they contain slapstick pratfalls, toilet humour and plain old cringy moments, mainly at the expense of Clark. But somehow, the cast makes this material work, no matter how outlandish or over the top it may seem. Chevy Chase, in particular, continues to play Clark as the bumbling, put upon guy we love to watch. The selling point of this flick  for me is definitely just Clark’s interactions with his Cousin Eddie .  Whether he’s nonchalantly watching him pour his sewage all over his front lawn while wearing a skimpy bathrobe, or reacting to Eddie kidnapping his boss after a rhetorical request gone awry, you just know that there’s some laughs lined up!

In fact, Quaid’s Eddie proved to be so popular that he was given his own TV spin off movie in 2003. Unfortunately, I recommend that flick even less than I do the new revamped “Vacation”.

“Christmas Vacation”  may not have much to recommend it, and contains no Oscar worthy performances, but if you’re in need of a chuckle just after Christmas, then I suggest watching this flick. “Christmas Vacation” gets three and a half stars.

Peace out,  and have a Fantastic New Year!

 

 

Rodney Dangerfield heads “Back To School” in this Quirky Comedy

Continuing my list for movies to be enjoyed when preparing to return to either work or school. Today’s flick is the appropriately titled “Back to School” (1986), in which Rodney Dangerfield plays a entrepreneur for a business that caters for slightly broader people, does exactly that!

Thornton Melon (Dangerfield) has made his fortune by setting up “Tall and Fat”, a clothing store, despite having never attended college, nor obtained a degree. After he divorces his gold digging  second wife, Vanessa (Adrienne Barbeau) after catching her cheating, Thornton visits his college age son, Jason (Keith Gordon). Thornton has been under the impression that Jason is the star of the diving team. Surprise, surprise, he discovers that this is not the case- Jason is the towel boy of the team, who is often tormented by the real swim team leader, Chas (William Zappka, carrying on the schtick of the bullying jock from “The Karate Kid”), and wants to drop out altogether.

In a bid to convince Jason to stay in college, Thornton elects to enroll in the same college. Naturally, he solves the problem of having no prior diplomas by throwing money at it- i.e. donating a building to the campus. This earns him an instant nemesis with Philip Barbay (Paxton Whitehead). As Thornton parties and wisecracks his way through college, Jason grows all the more exasperated by his dad’s antics. But with the help of Jason and his literature professor Diane, (Sally Kellerman), Thornton may just pass the class!

“Back to School” was the first Rodney Dangerfield movie I’d ever watched, so I was unused to Dangerfield’s comedic quips and sometimes crude humour. However, I gradually warmed to his character as the movie went on, so ultimately I had no choice but to like Thornton, for all his faults, he proves to be well-meaning.

The supporting cast help make the flick watchable, from Robert Downey Junior as Jason’s offbeat best friend, to Edie McClurg as Thornton’s secretary, Marge (despite the fact that she only appears in one scene!) In addition, author Kurt Vonnegut cameos as himself, when Thornton ropes him in to write an essay on his own book “Slaughterhouse 5”, with humorous consequences!

In conclusion, “Back to School” may not be the best movie there is about college, but it delivers the laughs, which is what you’d expect from a Rodney Dangerfield comedy. It’s for this reason that this flick receives three and a half stars from me!