Friday, November 17, 2006

The Return of Bad Movies From A to Z: Just One of the Guys

There are some movies that, in the 1980s, were on cable around the clock. Most people my age can name a few: "Beastmaster," "Summer Rental," "Super Fuzz," the list could go on for days. You may rarely if ever have watched them from beginning to end, catching the last part one time, and the middle or beginning another. Today's entry in the mighty Bad Movies From A to Z pantheon is one of those movies.

The movie in a nutshell: High school student Terry Griffith (Joyce Hyser, who later appeared in a few episodes of "The Flash") feels that she's not being taken seriously as a journalist because she's a woman. So she does what any other rational person would do: she dresses up in men's clothes and enrolls in a different high school as a student.

The story: We meet Terry Griffith, who seems to have everything going the right way. She has a buffed college boyfriend and is interested in journalism.

In fact, she's working on an article when her friend Denise bails out of science to ask her advice on her prom prospects.

I mention this because one of the guys she mentions is named Gibbler. This movie was co-written by Jeff Franklin, who is the guy who brought us "Full House," which featured annoying neighbor Kimmie Gibbler.

Terry is hoping to get a shot at an internship at the Sun-Tribune. But of the two winners, Terry isn't one of them. She waits to talk to her teacher and overhears another teacher talking to him about her good looks.

She confronts him about her article and tells him off after he suggests she should have something to fall back on -- like being a model.

Terry's boyfriend Kevin doesn't understand why she's so upset, and her constantly horny brother Buddy (Billy Jacoby, later Billy Jayne of "Parker Lewis Can't Lose" fame) is no help, either.

Fed up with not being taken seriously because she's a woman, Terry gets an idea: She'll dress like a guy.

Buddy gives her pointers on how to look like a guy, including detailed instructions on scratching.

She's going to the other high school in town to submit her article for the internship. She cuts her hair and shows up, trying to blend in. There she meets Greg Tolan, played to asshat perfection by William Zabka (the asshat guy from "The Karate Kid"), when he lobs her into the bushes for talking to him.

On Terry's first day, she comes across a few logistical problems, such as which bathroom to use, and figuring out how to get around dressing out for PE.

Nature calls, and Terry has to make her first trip to the men's room. Mild hilarity ensues.

At lunch, Greg's daily ritual involves tormenting some nerds by lifting their bench.

Later, Terry has that school's journalism instructor look at her story. He says her writing's good, but the story is boring. He's not going to choose the winners for another week or so, so Terry has time to write another story.

She sees Rick Morehouse the next day at lunch. He was the guy who she talked to when she got dumped in the bushes. Rick likes music. This will be mildly interesting later. While Terry is talking to Rick, a girl named Sandy has set her sights on Terry.

She gives Rick a ride home and they hang out and have beers.

Generic beers.

Every now and then I remember when grocery stores added generic everything to their product lineup. The packaging was either plain white or yellow, with the product name in plain black letters. Some stores were so big on generics, they devoted the center aisles to a gigantic generic display.

Thank you, eBay...
This was also the time when "generic" was school slang for anything that sucked.

I even remember one kid named Eric who I only knew as "Generic Eric." To this day, I have no idea who the hell he was.


Terry decides that she's going to help Rick find a date. Sandy offers to set Rick up with her cute cousin if Terry will go out with her. The double date is on.

As it turns out, Sandy's cousin is a sixth-grader. She and Rick leave Terry and Sandy so they can be alone. When Terry gets back, blitzed on more generic beer, she has to sneak in because Kevin is waiting to see her.

It's getting complicated keeping all this up; luckily, her parents are out of town.

She buys Rick some new clothes, and Greg's girlfriend notices. Greg notices, too; he dumps spaghetti on Rick at lunch. Terry tells Rick in the bathroom that he shouldn't let Greg get away with that.

The next day, when Greg goes to dump the nerds' lunches, Rick gets up on a table and makes fun of Greg and his obsession with teasting the nerds. Everyone thinks Rick is cool now. Greg is now less cool, even with Deborah.

Afterward, Rick asks Deborah to the prom, and now that she's pissed at Greg, she says yes. But Terry doesn't seem happy about it. But Rick won't go to prom unless Terry goes, so later at her house, Terry asks her pal, Denise. She reluctantly agrees, but as Denise is leaving, Debbie shows up, looking for Terry.

Debbie has a few kissing fish for her. And something else.

And then Kevin shows up, also looking for Terry.

Terry sends Buddy up to take care of Sandy, but she leaves.

Out in the car, Kevin gripes about Terry not looking "hot." He says that her writing is just a hobby, which doesn't go over well, and reiterates sentiments her teacher had voiced.

The next night, it's time for Prom. Rick and Deborah are dancing close, and Greg doesn't look very happy about it. Neither does Terry, but for a different reason. She thinks Rick can do better.

Meanwhile, Kevin shows up at Terry's house, looking for her. Buddy will tell him where she is, but only if he gets to go with Kevin.

At the dance, Greg and Deborah are named prom king and queen, but she won't dance with him. Instead, she dances with Rick. This doesn't go over well; Greg walks over and punches Rick. Terry jumps on Greg, but he throws her into the water.

By this point, Buddy and Kevin are there to see the action.

Rick wants a rematch with Greg, and they fight. Rick throws him into the food table.

Kevin asks Terry what's going on. Before he can say that Terry's his girlfriend, Terry takes Rick aside to talk to him.

Rick assumes that Terry is going to come out to him. She does, sort of. She admits that she's a woman.

"Right," says Rick. "And I'm Cyndi Lauper."

Except Rick, who loves music, pronounces it "Low-per" with an "ow" sound, unlike anyone else I knew in 1985. Or now, for that matter.

He doesn't believe Terry, but there is a way she can convince him.

Here it is, kids, the reason for this movie's PG rating...

"Wait a minute, are those what I think they are?"

Rick storms away, angry with Terry for lying. Terry follows him and kisses him in front of the whole crowd, which Rick explains nonchalantly.

I swear, this is just like "Yentl."

Terry tries to finish her story ("I Was a Teenage Boy") while fighting back tears.

It makes it into the paper, and she gets the internship. But she doesn't seem happy about it. Her teacher congratulates her and asks what happened to Rick. She says he hates her.

After graduation, she bumps into Rick outside the Sun-Tribune after work. They make up and decide to go out. He missed her, he says.

Happy ending.

Afterthoughts: How can you not like a 80s teen comedy that opens with a slow reveal of a pretty girl in underwear?

You'd think that this was a raunchy sex comedy in the vein of Porky's, but instead is essentially a TV movie with brief nudity and some swears. It's kind of sweet in a way, but it wavers between sex comedy and romantic comedy without committing fully to either, and doesn't really come off focused.

Still, for kids who couldn't watch R movies and still wanted to see naked chestal regions, this was like a goldmine.

The thing I noticed this time around is that Terry decides to work undercover at the other high school in town. Her parents are out of town, so she doesn't have to explain her odd behavior to them. But how is it that she doesn't go to class at her real high school? And there wasn't anyone at the school who knew Terry and would've seen through her disguise?

Still, it's worth catching from beginning to end; there are a handful of mild yuks.

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