Movies that defined my youth, Part 2

It’s been awhile since my first installment, so I’m back to revisit some movies that – good or bad – were integral parts of my pop culture education as a growing young man.  And coincidentally, this batch is all comedies.

Club Paradise – Long before Robin Williams sullied his reputation in sub-par movies like Jack, RV, and License to Wed, he was sullying it with sub-par movies like 1986’s Club Paradise.  I caught this on cable the other day for the first time in about 20 years, and had instant flashbacks to watching my taped copy (taped from HBO) over and over.

This is one of those comedies that was almost really good, but fell short for some indefinable reason.  It probably had to do with the distraction of several different plots at once.  The main storyline concerns Jack Moniker (Williams) and reggae musician Ernest Reed (Jimmy Cliff), co-owners of Club Paradise on the island of Saint Nicholas.  They must fight off the ambitions of a local real estate developer, who has the prime minister in his back pocket.

The rest of the stories involve the supporting characters, played by SCTV alums like Rick Moranis, Eugene Levy, Andrea Martin, and Joe Flaherty.  Their plots play out more like comedy sketches than parts of a cohesive movie.  Moranis and Levy play a few slimy lounge lizard-types in search of female companionship and a big marijuana score, and are probably the funniest characters in the movie.

9 to 5 – Yeah, that’s right, I like 9 to 5.  Wanna make something’ of it?!  What’s not to love?  Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin, and even Jane Fonda are all in fine comedic form here.  And of course you’ve got the omnipresent Dabney Coleman.

While there is still a lot of comedy value here (the fantasy sequences alone are great), I also enjoy this now as a neat little time capsule look back at the world of the late ’70s and early ’80s. It’s got the big cars, the great clothes, the patriarchal office environment, and typewriters as far as the eye can see!

I was too young in the ’80s to appreciate the hypocracies and frustrations associated with the glass ceiling as it applied to women in the American workplace.  Luckily for me 9 to 5 examined this issue with the subtlety of a kick in the groin.

Mr. Mom – Speaking of time capsules, I can’t believe I missed out on this in the first part.  I think this was another one that HBO ran on a continual loop, and for good reason.  Michael Keaton is hilarious, as was Teri Garr, Jeffrey Tambor, and Martin Mull.

Amidst a slumping economy, Jack Butler loses his job as an engineer when the auto maker he works for is forced to cut people (hmmm, sound familiar?).  That means his wife has to go back to work, and Jack must tend to the children and daily chores.  Yeah, the story’s as old as dirt, but the key here is in the earnestness and execution.

There are a tone of great lines in Mr. Mom, and the soap opera fantasy sequence is great.  And who can forget Jaws the vacuum cleaner and the woobie blanket?  To this day, the Suit household makes liberal use of variations on the “220, 221…whatever it takes” and “Irv, I was never even in aisle 7!” quotes.

Private School – Compared to the rest of this list, 1983’s Private School is about as unwholesome as it gets.  All I’ll say is that the men (and hey, even the women) who dug the Phoebe Cates bikini scene from Fast Times at Ridgemont High will definitely want to see this.  That’s not to say that Private School is as good as Fast Times, because it’s very much an inferior film.  I’m just sayin’.

I don’t know when the term “gratuitous T&A” was coined, but Private School pretty much epitomises that phrase better than any other mainstream Hollywood offering I can think of.  But it’s also good for some laughs, courtesy a series of ludicrous comedic misunderstandings and some funny performances from Michael Zorek (Bubba), Kathleen Wilhoite (Betsy), and Ray Walston (Chauncey the limo driver).