Thursday, April 18, 2024

Cool Eighties Comedies

In our turbulent times, it’s always pleasant to retreat to these epitome of cool, nostalgic comfort comedies.


Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure

Time traveler George Carlin (Dogma) must help Alex Winter (The Lost Boys) as Bill S. Preston, esquire and Keanu Reeves (The Matrix) as Ted “Theodore” Logan save the future in this memorable 1989 teen classic. The Wyld Stallyns duo uses their phone booth time machine to collect famous figures – including Billy the Kid, Sigmund “Freud Dude,” “Beeth-Oven,” “So-Crates,” and Abraham Lincoln – to pass their history class. Although the onscreen antics and paradoxical premise are preposterous and some of the derogatory comedy is dated, it almost doesn’t matter. Our actors look and sound the tweedle dee and tweedle dumb part; their quirky humor, witty chemistry, and time travel mayhem balance anything nonsensical or silly. Sharp dialogue and air guitar exclamations provide chuckle worthy moments that have seeped into the cultural lexicon almost because of the terrible fashions, simplistic eighties effects, and the bizarre vision of a future utopia brought together by cool music montages. You can tune in to this fun, nostalgic time capsule at any point in the movie and see something that keeps you coming back. Excellent!



Butler Tim Curry (The Rocky Horror Picture Show) invites mysterious guests Eileen Brennan (The Sting), Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future), Madeline Kahn (Blazing Saddles), and more to a foreboding mansion for a fifties dinner party serving murder, blackmail, and red herrings in this 1985 based-on-the-board-game farce. Be it “Flames…on the side of my face…” or “One plus two plus one plus one,” each member of the ensemble has a memorable moment, trademark, or catchphrase. Sure, cliche victims or accomplices serve their purpose and the killer plots are up for debate, but the outrageous set ups, slapstick situations, and self-aware lightning clashes punctuate the clever word play and deadpan dialogue. Risqué puns and double talk timing provide mature chuckles as well as laugh out loud moments thanks to a smart script that works for viewers young and old. The nom de plume attire of each character and quirky eighties score peppered with good old doo wop on the phonograph create a high end old fashioned film noir mixed with an eighties comedic pace perfect for repeat viewing. Multiple endings toy with character deliveries, subtext, and the whodunit of it all without pulling the rug out from under the audience via pleasant deductions and winks.


Crocodile Dundee

“That’s a knife!” Paul Hogan and Linda Kozlowski (also of the lesser but still fun Crocodile Dundee II) steam it up in this 1986 Down Under fish out of water romp. Granted, some of the Bushman in New York scenes don’t work today, the foreign slang will still be tough for some, and a few conversations are offensive and racially questionable. The music, rad eighties styles, casual drug party scenes, and veiled Reagan era subtext are of their time as well. After a great Australian start with the titular encounters, Indigenous humor, and lovely Outback locales, the typical American explorations drag the middle of the film. Fortunately, the culture clash charm and genuine onscreen chemistry carry the clichés. The classic New York scenery is also now sentimental, and multiple viewings are needed to pick up all the visual gags and winking bemusements culminating in a surprisingly pleasing subway confession. There’s man’s man adventure and around the world romance – something for everyone, mate!


Summer School

Much in this 1987 comedy starring Mark Harmon (NCIS) and Kirstie Alley (Cheers) wouldn’t fly today. Director Carl Reiner (The Jerk) populates the eponymous course with slackers, a beach bum gym teacher, goofy field trips, juicy foreign exchange students, strip clubs, study bribes, and a Texas Chainsaw Massacre classroom viewing. Fortunately, shoulder pads, one earring styles, surf boards, cute dogs, and lighthearted tunes maximize the eighties innocence amid going to jail on roller skates and not so raunchy innuendo. Peppy montages assure everyone has their absurd moment as punchlines, visual gags, food, oral fixations, and performances accentuate the comedy rather than rely on today’s gross out extremes. Serious issues such as family troubles, student/teacher crushes, teen pregnancy, toxic behaviors, and dyslexia are also touched upon; grades are not a reflection of an underachiever’s potential but not every smug educator is in it to prevent failing youths from slipping through the system. The number of students changes, the big test doesn’t mean much, and the parents are inexplicably pleased with the havoc, but such charming preposterousness makes for a laid back re-watch.


The War of The Roses

From throwing plates and kitchen appliances mayhem to sauna dangers, almost cooked pets, and chandelier disasters – Kathleen Turner, Michael Douglas, and director Danny DeVito poke fun at their previous Romancing the Stone and Jewel of the Nile adventures in this dark 1989 divorce comedy. The sharp, innuendo loaded script starts blissfully enough with naughty gymnastics and humble struggles before making partner workaholics and the perfect mansion filled with all the curated best antiques. The classy manor and decades old splendor provides the perfect backdrop as the sexy suggestions devolve and the creative violence escalates in the yuppie keeping up with the Joneses upstanding pressures. The stars are at their peaks with witty deliveries and clever physicality accenting the divided chemistry. The passage of time transitions, boxy fashions, and eighties hairstyles may be too of the past now, and the brief saucy is probably tame today. However, adults of a certain age will appreciate the bitter marital minutiae as the deranged exploits culminate in a cynical yet entertaining crescendo.


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