Thursday, June 12, 2003

Today I watched a movie that may have caused me to go sterile. This movie is so horrible that, until recently, it had been outlawed in the southern states since it's release in 1986. Since my sister is writing a book on 80's trivia anyway, I have decided to throw my little contribution in the pot and nauseate you all as well.

Today I bring you Playing For Keeps.

Danny(Daniel Jordano, henchman #2 from Streetwalkin') graduates from high school realizing that he is ill-prepared for real life. Unwilling to get a real job like the rest of us, he soon finds himself in financial straits. Provenance smiles upon him conveniently, however, when he finds out that his mother has inherited a spacious hotel somewhere in New England. The catch? The place is all fucked up like a football bat, and the property taxes are due in sixty days. At least half of this premise has been stolen directly from One Crazy Summer, starring John Cusack, but it's not really that unique a plotline anyway. And this isn't the only movie that Playing For Keeps "borrows" from.

Danny enlists the help from his best friends Spikes(played by Sean Penn's retarded brother, Matthew), and Silk(played by Leon Grant, "Marc" from 3-2-1 Contact). Silk is also the token black friend most movies in this era needed to promote racial equality in the innocent days before gangsta rap. Danny sells these two on the idea by playing up the extravagance of owning a resort hotel. This leads to dream sequences that were so reminiscent of Zanadu that I was convinced that Olivia Newton John was going to rollerskate by at any moment. While Spikes' fantasy was only slightly homoerotic, Silk's screamed softcore gay porn so loudly that I was surprised he didn't wear a feather boa during his dance sequence. Like I said, this was before NWA and Public Enemy, and while I am not a big fan of rap, when I see the way blacks are portrayed in early eighties movies, I can definitely see the appeal of forming your own image and not letting Hollywood do it for you. Anything would be better than being forced to pretend that what you wanted, more than anything else in the world, was to be a male jazz dancer, and still try to demonstrate any masculine characteristics for the rest of the movie. Which he doesn't, by the way. Not only does he get a plateful of beef stew and ketchup smeared in his face by the skinniest redneck I ever saw, but he also drives a backhoe across a wooden bridge dressed as a nun. No, really.

When they get up to the hotel, after selling all of their worldly possessions, guess what? Danny didn't tell his friends about how bad the condition of the property was! I never saw that coming! Now enters the Evil Guy. Mr. Cromwell(played by Robert Milli) has his eyes set on this property so he can...ummm...I don't remember, but it was like building a condo complex or a highway or something like that. It's really not central to the plot what he wanted the property for, just keep in mind that he wants it. He has found out that teenagers from New York have decided to fix the hotel up, but isn't particularly worried that they'll be able to pass the upcoming inspection. He's evil and has no scruples, so he'll figure out something. First arrow in his quiver: a smear campaign on the teens and the lecherous Roman bath house they are trying to open up at the stately piece o' shit overlooking the town. The townsfolk portrayed in the movie are stupid and gullible, which is probably how the writers think all New Englanders are. Now, my brother lives in Connecticut, so there is at least one smart person out there. I can't vouch for the rest of you. Before you get all uppity about New England charm and all the great people who live there, save it. I've been there before, and I know they grow 'em stupider in the northern latitudes. But these bumbling hicks are a little too contrived to be realistic. I later found out they were all Pennsylvanians, so that solved it.

The villagers are up in arms about all the rumors, even though the teens try to explain that it's really going to be a rock and roll hotel, not a brothel. You know, MTV in every room, the Billy Idol Suite, an arcade with such cutting edge titles as Frogger and Joust. I don't see much of a difference, but that's just me. Plus, the hotel is for kids only, so you know there isn't going to be any hanky panky going on around there. Riiiiight. While the teens clean up the place, they find out that there is a hermit in residence. Rockerfeller is played by Harold Gould, who earned a Ph. D in theatre from Cornell. I guess they didn't have a class on dodging shitty movie roles back then. From what I can tell, only two of the cast form this film ever did another picture: Harold Gould and Marisa Tomei.

It turns out that the illustrious Mr. Rockerfeller is a "retired" Wall Street analyst on the run for fraud. What better person to take financial advice from! He tells the kids that they need investors, and the kids interperet this to mean that they should shake down all of their friends back home, who are also unmotivated and poor. They end up giving all their "investors" a share in Motel Hell in return for money and manual labor. There is a scene where they are actually digging ditches for a pool or something. This montage of scenes showing the kids fix the house is accompanied by Sister Sledge singing "Here To Stay". This scene was an obvious knockoff of the house-fixing scene from Revenge Of The Nerds, but they have borrowed so shamelessly from so many other movies by this time that it barely needs mentioning. I just wanted to mention it anyway. So there.

Well, Cromwell finds out about Rockerfeller and tips off the local fuzz. Rockerfeller is carried away and the children lose their only source of motivation. They sit around and do nothing except think about themselves and how much their lives suck until it is revealed that Cromwell is not just a sneaky guy around teens. He has broken zoning laws on another one of his projects or something, and if the kids can get the evidence, they can be rid of him and life will be beautiful. From here on the plot is going to sound hazy because I simply could not concentrate on this movie anymore, and began to surf the web while the film played in the background. What I can tell you is that they do find the needed evidence by causing some sort of riot at the supermarket(?) and get him busted just before the county inspector shows up and gives the hotel a big A-OK! The final scene is the grand opening of the hotel(for kids!), and apparently the kids saved some of the money for advertising, since about 400 teenagers pour in the place at one time. They run up the stairs without checking in, they prance around in horrendous neon-colored wardrobes, they drink underage, and Danny couldn't be happier.

I don't know how I made it all the way through this movie without throwing my TV out the window and pouring holy water on my cable box to exorcize the demons that live within, but I made it. I remember seeing ads for this movie when it came out, and thinking that this movie was going to suck big time. I'm glad I was right.

I would also like to add that this is the first semi-complete review for Playing For Keeps on the web. I beat out X-E, Whatever Dude, and Something Awful on this one. That ought to count for something.

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