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MGM ’80s Movie Collection DVD Review

MGM ’80s Movie Collection

October 12, 2010

Director: Martha Coolidge, Damian Harris, Curtis Hanson, Boaz Davidson, Lewis John Carlino, Robert J. Rosenthal,
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Deborah Foreman, Dexter Fletcher, Ione Skye, Tom Cruise, Shelley Long, Lawrence Monoson, Diane Franklin, Rob Lowe, Andrew McCarthy, Scott Baio, Willie Aames,

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DVD Review

Valley Girl (1983) is a milestone 1980s comedy for several reasons. It was a smart, sexy and funny alternative to the countless teen comedies that came out during the decade. It helped popularize Valley Girl-speak that originated among teenage girls from California and it soon had people all across the country sprinkling their conversations with words, “like” and “for sure.” It also announced Nicolas Cage as an exciting and predictable leading man to watch. The story is one of the oldest chestnuts in the world: Julie (Foreman), a beautiful girl from the Valley falls for Randy (Cage), a guy from the wrong side of the tracks. It is the witty screenplay, the strong performances from the cast, and the excellent soundtrack (including Modern English’s iconic song, “I Melt with You”) that help make this film so memorable.

Based on the novel of the same name by Martin Amis, The Rachel Papers (1989) is one of the more ambitious teen sex comedies in the sense that it attempts to mix drama and comedy into the rise and demise of a relationship between a young Englishman named Charles (Fletcher), who dates and dumps all kinds of girls only to fall hard for a gorgeous American girl named Rachel (Skye). Charles narrates the film and sometimes addresses the camera a la Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986). Dexter Fletcher is certainly not your typical romantic lead and so his character seduces women with words and confidence. Ione Skye delivers a fascinatingly layered performance that elevates her character above the unattainable dream girl cliché. She was on quite a run at this time, turning in top notch performances in River’s Edge (1986) and Say Anything (1989).

Before Risky Business (1983) helped launch his career, Tom Cruise headlined a less successful teen sex comedy called Losin’ It (1983) about three high school friends obsessed with losing their virginity. To do this they decide to go to Tijuana, Mexico. John Stockwell and Jackie Earle Haley play Cruise’s friends and Shelley Long is a woman who joins them to get a divorce from her husband and Cruise’s character ends up falling in love with her. After all the prestigious films Cruise has done over the years, it is rather odd to see his first leading man role was a modest teen sex comedy that seems almost quaint by today’s standards.

The Last American Virgin (1982) was the American Pie (1999) of its day… only much better. Three high school friends try to get laid and the film chronicles their various misadventures. This film is definitely in the vein of raunchy comedies like Porky’s (1981) and perfected what filmmaker Eli Roth calls the “Fat Guy/Cool Guy/Nerd” formula. The three main characters represent each of these stereotypes and the film sees them work as a team in order to have sex. The film is notable for its surprisingly downbeat ending and for its killer soundtrack that features the likes of Devo, the Police, Journey and the Cars to name but just a few.

In the early 1980s, Rob Lowe was one of the most popular teen heart throbs in show business. His face was plastered all over the covers of countless magazines and his image adorned numerous posters. With Class (1983), he dabbled in the teen sex comedy with fellow Brat Packer Andrew McCarthy. The latter plays Jonathan, a teenager who comes from a working class background. He gets into a prestigious prep school thanks to high SAT scores and through a comedy of errors ends up having an affair with his roommate’s (Lowe) mother (Jacqueline Bisset). Much forced hilarity ensues. Keep your eyes peeled for future John Hughes alumni Alan Ruck and John Cusack in small roles and in what would be their feature film debuts (along with Virginia Madsen).

Capitalizing on the fame he acquired from the popular television show Happy Days, Scott Baio headlined his own teen sex comedy with Zapped! (1982) He plays Barney, a bookish nerdy high school student who toils away in the lab while his buddy Peyton (Aames) is more interested in chasing after girls. However, when one of his experiments goes awry, Barney develops telekinesis powers. Being a horny teenager, he uses his powers to see girls naked (future television sex symbol Heather Thomas as the school’s head cheerleader), excels at sports and basically gets revenge on anyone who bullied him in a thinly-veiled parody of the Brian De Palma horror film Carrie (1976). He also develops a relationship with Bernadette (Felice Schachter), the brainy class president. Not surprisingly, the film was panned by critics and ignored by audiences but has gone on to develop a small cult following.

Special Features:

Most of the discs contain theatrical trailers with the Valley Girl disc offering the only substantial extras, which include an audio commentary and trivia subtitle track that can be viewed while watching the film.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance

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Rating: 83%

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