Playing For Keeps (1986)
I'm a sucker for teen movies. Horror, comedy, drama, it really doesn't matter. Because, you see, the vast majority are written by people so far removed from their own teenage years, and even further removed from what current teenagers find relevant. Unintentional hilarity is sure to abound.
Playing For Keeps is a recently discovered gem, lost amongst its more highly regarded 1980s teen comedy brethren.
The most noticeable part of this movie is plastered front and (left) center on the cover of the DVD. I'm sure it wasn't that way on the original posters. Indeed, a young Marisa Tomei made her debut in this very film. And I have to say, she looks almost exactly the same here as she does now. And I mean that in the absolute best way possible. She hasn't aged a day.
In the opening credits, however, she gets fifth billing, behind such silver screen luminaries as Daniel Jordano, Matthew Penn and Leon W. Grant.
Anywhoser, we start by getting edgy cross color shots of what I'm sure are supposed to be NYC landmarks, but could just as easily come from Des Moines. They have bridges in Des Moines, right?
Oh, good. We have a narrator. Some guy named Spikes. Yeah. Spikes. Plural. Oh, he's best friends with an Italian and a black guy. And the black guy can dance. Not stereotypical at all. Apparently Danny, the Italian kid, is a real dream. A go getter. And a bit of a trouble maker. Oh, and he's also the valedictorian and class president. Ok. Fair enough. A multi-tasker.
Side note: This movie was written and directed by Bob and Harvey Weinstein. So, ya know, let's assume they know what they're doing.
Barbarino, sorry, Danny, is giving the commencement speech at Ben Franklin HS. I know at least a million people who went there. And everything's going swimmingly until...
HE GOES ON A PROFANITY LACED, ANTI-AUTHORITY TIRADE!!!!
Ok, so either this is the least disciplined school ever, or Danny, who, mind you, is the CLASS PRESIDENT AND VALEDICTORIAN, is bipolar with a touch of Tourette's and a dash of megalomania. My money's on the latter.
So now these guys - Danny, Spikes and Gregory Hines - are playing a game of Christopher Columbus, against their arch rivals, the Flyers. None of the Flyers looks like Ron Hextall, so I'm guessing the names are a coincidence. The object of Christopher Columbus is to hide in the urban jungle. Once capture, you become the property of the other team, and are subject to ritualistic torture and repeated rape. Actually, that's back when they called it Leif Erickson. The Flyers are the best rapist in the game. So they have something in common with their NHL counterparts after all.
So some guys get raped, the black guy rides a unicycle (which is never mentioned again, which is a shame) and Marisa Tomei gives him her panties. We all know how much white guys love seeing black guys with their sister's panties.
This all has nothing to do with anything, of course, and has been a complete waste of all of our time. So Danny
Zuko finds a deed to an old hotel that his dead aunt owned. Or something like that. Look, I've watched this movie 4 times today and have gotten to the bottom of three bottles of Captain Morgan 100 Proof in the process. So the details are all kinda running together at this point.
Time for the obligatory old evil white guys in business suits looking to buy everything in the world. I wasn't sure these guys were evil until the heavy, sinister synths kicked in. Thanks, guy who scored this shit show!
So Danny is trying to get his friends in on this hotel deal. But Crockett and Tubbs ain't having it. Danny needs to sell them on it.
CUE OBLIGATORY 1980s MUSICAL FANTASY/MONTAGE 1!
Spikes dreams of being the athletic director at the hotel, with his girlfriend bringing him some sort of chocolates. Everyone has their own dreams, but, come on, dude, you can do better.
The black guy, whose name is Silk (not the Shocker), fantasizes about his silhouette shuckin' and jivin' as he shoots red lightning bolts from his hands at various whores. Clearly a commentary on the effect of crack cocaine in the African-American community during the 80s. Kudos, Weinsteins.
So, yeah, they're in. But they need money to pay off the back taxes! Dilemma~! To the bank! Uh-oh, I sure hope there isn't...
ANOTHER EVIL WHITE GUY IN A BUSINESS SUIT!!!!
Aw, shucks. Darn the luck! A guy who looks like Danny Devito on a bad day shoots him down for his loan. So they send the trickster black kid to con some money off a sweet, old white woman. Not racist at all. Cause now Spikes innocently, and of course against his moral fiber, asks a mean old white guy (but not evil or in a business suit) for money. See? It's the same!
Never fear! Crazy Legs has a backup plan! And it involves dressing up as boy scouts and...and...and...
OBLIGATORY 1980S MUSICAL FANTASY/MONTAGE 2!
That's right. We are exactly 21 minutes into this movie, and we've already had two musical fantasies/montages. Now that takes balls!
Now they have enough money to pay the taxes. Yay! But Danny's sad to leave his kid sister behind. Aww! Conflicted emotionz, yo! The best part of this movie so far happens, as a random Phil Collins song starts playing. I'm so desperate for a glimmer of hope, I'm not going to question it. Carry on, Phil.
This farmer's a lady! A beeeeaaaauuutiful lady! PLOT TWIST! They arrive at the hotel and OMG THIS PLACE IS A DUMP! THERE AREN'T ENOUGH MUSICAL MONTAGES IN THE WORLD TO SALVAGE THIS PLACE!
They encounter a squatter, who, naturally, they assume is a ghost. He identifies himself as Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Oh wait, he can walk. Wrong guy. Ya know, up to this point, Marisa Tomei has had little to no impact on anything. This parts her last on my list of characters in this movie I wish to bludgeon with the film reel it was distributed with.
Ok, so we're literally only a half hour into the movie at this point. And I know my readers. 94% gave up reading this about 20 minutes ago. Flash forward time: Danny wants the hotel to be for kids only. He seems to have done a lot of cocaine. I envy him. The townspeople are distrusting of these ruffians from the city. The possibly dead old guy squatter has assumed a role as the defacto father. Head white asshole in business suit wants to buy the hotel for himself. Surely he won't tear it down. Yes he will, and don't call me Shirley. This movie has done more damage to my brain than that case of Four Loko I mainlined into my veins back in October.
Oh, dissension. Some want to give up, some don't. Not sure who's on what side. Not sure what side I'm on at this point. I'm thinking suicide if this movie doesn't get to the point. Quick. Now they're doing karate in a field. I think the black kid has a knife. Sorry, the movie's racism has seeped into me.
Oh, here's hot, not-a-man farmer girl again. She's also a banker. Of course she is. But wait, I thought all bankers are...ugh, I don't have the energy for this shit anymore. Old white guy at paint store won't sell paint to black kid. Probably the least offensive thing in this movie to this point.
Hey, they have Kate Smith's God Bless America on the jukebox in this movie. Another veiled reference to the Flyers? If you haven't heard that before, here it is. It's far more interesting than this pile of retarded dog shit.
That's one huge bitch. But damn, she could sang. Oh, back to the movie. Um, notamanfarmerbankergirl wants to help. Or she doesn't. I don't know. I don't care. I just want this to fucking end.
Flash forward: They're fixing the house. Hijinks ensue. I pray for the sweet embrace of death so I can shuffle off this mortal coil. For an 80s teen comedy romp, there is a disconcerting lack of titties shown. Jussayin. "I'm So Excited" is playing now. Remember that episode of Saved By The Bell? I'd rather watch that episode 20 times in a row than this movie. And I can do that, cause I own the DVDs of every season of Saved By The Bell. Except the College Years. Fuck that shit.
Super flash forward to the end: some people end up in jail. The old guy breaks out of jail. They have a party. The black kid sings a version of Stand By Me over the closing credits with such soul that it's reminiscent of Paul Robeson belting out Ol' Man River. I manage not to shoot myself in the face watching this movie.
If you made it this far, as a reward, ladies and gentleman, Mr. Paul Robeson: