Thursday, July 31, 2014

¡Three Amigos! - 1986

"¡Three Amigos!" - 1986
Dir. by John Landis - 1 hr. 44 min.

Official Trailer

by Clayton Hollifield

There's a million reasons why I should love "Three Amigos" more than I do (and I'll be damned if I'm going to do the upside-down exclamation mark every time I mention the title).  I generally like Steve Martin and Chevy Chase, and the idea is a pretty good one.  But aside from my generally not liking Martin Short, I'm not sure why the whole thing doesn't click perfectly for me.  It's a good movie, but pretty far from my first choice to watch for anyone involved.  But it's not terrible.  It's just not "The Jerk."  Or "Spies Like Us."  or "The Blues Brothers."

During the Studio System years, three haughty actors, Lucky Day (Steve Martin), Dusty Bottoms (Chevy Chase), and Ned Nederlander (Martin Short) have a successful franchise, and want raises.  Boss Harry Flugleman (Joe Mantegna) fires them and throws them out of the studio, without even the suits they were wearing.  At the same time, a village in Mexico called Santo Poco is being tormented by El Guapo (Alfonso Arau) and his gang of bandits.  Carmen (Patrice Martinez) sees one of the Three Amigos films and mistakes it for a documentary, and writes a letter to the Amigos promising 100,000 pesos if they will come down to Mexico and deal with El Guapo.  Not having anything else to do, the Amigos steal back some clothes and head south.

Good stuff first: this is from the time when Steve Martin was doing straight comedy, as opposed to characters with a bit more angst mixed in.  He's 100% into comedy here, and there's a lot of charm to Martin's comedy.  Chevy Chase is pretty good here, too.  And this is the film in which I least mind having to deal with Martin Short (backhanded compliments are still compliments).  "Three Amigos" also, at times, feels like a love letter to the old way of making movies, shot on a studio lot, with the same band of character actors popping up to round out film after film, in sets that seem fairly familiar.  On the whole, an action/adventure/comedy without needlessly troubled characters is a pretty easy meal to digest, even if you're hungry again pretty quickly.

It feels like picking on the pedigree of these actors to say that one of the problems with "Three Amigos" is that it feels more like a series of sketches at times than a cohesive movie.  I think that most of us would have gotten as much out of this if the Amigos were a set of recurring characters on Saturday Night Live than as a full-length movie.  For me, probably the biggest laugh I got during the whole thing was that Chevy Chase played a character called Dusty Bottoms, which is so good that I kind of want that to be my alias from now on.  There's also a pretty good physical comedy scene where Lucky Day is chained up in a jail.  But those scenes (and really, most of the scenes), would work just as well independently of one another.  The characters aren't complicated, the set-up is very broad, and none of the humor comes from character development.  

"Three Amigos" works better in my memory than as an actual film-viewing experience for me.  Broadly, there are things that I really enjoyed (like the Three Amigos Salute, or their fancy faux-Nudie suits, or a dude named Dusty Bottoms), and it's pleasant enough, but I wanted, and expected more out of the people involved.  I didn't think that anything in the film (aside from the Steve Martin jail bit) pushed the concept into new territory, or delivered anything unexpected.  "Three Amigos" is pretty much the film that, if you watched the trailer, you would imagine that you would get.  That's not upsetting, it's still pretty decent (and rewatchable), and not everyone knocks every project out of the park every time.  

3 / 5 - TV (HD)

Monday, July 14, 2014

Breaker! Breaker! - 1977

"Breaker!  Breaker!" - 1977
Dir. by Don Hulette - 1 hr. 26 min.


by Clayton Hollifield

I don't even know where to begin with "Breaker! Breaker!"  Depending on your viewpoint, it's either one of the greatest awful movies ever made or damned near unwatchable.  Here's what's indisputable: this film is part of the mid-'70s glut of trucker/CB radio movies, it's painfully low-budget, and if Chuck Norris wasn't in it, I doubt anyone would give it a second glance.  It's not that there aren't awesome and hilarious things present apart from Mr. Norris, but having at least one actor that people have heard of makes it a lot more likely that someone will give a movie like this a chance.  Which is pretty much why I watched it.

"Zen Trucker" (as per the description of the film when you hit the "info" button) J.D. Dawes (Chuck Norris) gets off the road, and reconnects with his family, which includes his little brother, Billy (Michael Augenstein), who is about to head out on his very first haul.  J.D. takes it easy, while his brother works, alternately meditating and winning barroom arm-wrestling challenges against Polish nightmares in mesh tank tops.  But Billy falls victim to a small-town scheme on the road in Texas City, California, the sort of place where the judge just looks at you and tells you that you're guilty for whatever he feels like charging you with.  When Billy falls out of touch, J.D. is forced into action to track down the whereabouts of his little brother.  And there's a lot of roundhouse kicks, too.

There's one moment in this film that means that I had to give it a little credit - there's a scene where one cop mentions that he'll be in as soon as his partner finishes taking a ten one-hundred, which I knew what that meant because of "Smokey and the Bandit."  Then, the cop comes out from behind the bushes, pulling up his pants and tucking his shirt in, which clearly meant he was taking a ten TWO-hundred (thank you, Sally Field).  And there are a million things in "Breaker! Breaker!" that are pretty rad, independently of one another.  There's J.D.'s custom van:

Pic borrowed from Internet Movie Car Database

There's the outfits of the bad guys in the arm-wrestling contest, including one man in a vest and no shirt, but wearing a buccaneer's hat (he's the left-most figure in the picture).

Pic borrowed from Forgotten Flix

C'mon, man!  You're not going to beat Chuck Norris in an arm-wrestling contest!  He fought Bruce Lee in the Colosseum!  There's Chuck Norris kicking everything and everyone in sight (although there's a lot of light in some of those kicks).  The entire movie felt like it was cobbled together from elements found only in advertisements from 1970s Marvel Comics, and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible.  Does it hang together?  Well, not really, but who can pretend to care even a little when Chuck rolls in, driving that sweet-ass van?

And unlike a lot of movies from this era that are weird, "Breaker! Breaker!" doesn't feel drug-influenced.  It's just plain weird.  Texas City's justice, Judge Joshua Trimmings (George Murdock) is a drunk who plays with hand-puppets with the barmaid, and comes off like a poor-man's Ernest Borgnine.  There's the mentally-challenged guy who rides around the town on his adult-sized tricyle, wearing a sporty neckerchief.  J.D.'s best friend seems to be constantly making faces that might indicate he's mid-stroke (interpret that how you will, his faces could be medically-induced, or they could be from his vinegar strokes).  And my personal favorite part of the movie involves the Judge questioning the young boy of the woman who's befriended J.D., Arlene (Terry O'Connor), basically haranguing the boy about his mom getting banged by Chuck Norris in front of like a dozen people, over and over again, like the boy should be upset about that.  Chuck Norris was a walking Wranglers ad here, you show me any adult woman that could resist that, him, and his sweet-ass van, and I'll show you someone whose heart pumps not human blood, but instead a fluid grim determination to self-sabotage every aspect of her life, including the pursuit of pleasure.

The final showdown almost literally takes place in an octagon; J.D. faces off against Mexican Luke Wilson, Deputy Boles (Ron Cedillos), while a horse inexplicably freaks out in the background.  You know how this is got to end, even though J.D. has to meditate away having been shot in the stomach before the fight.  There's some good kicks, but you know this kind of movie isn't going to have the same kind of action scenes that you'd get now in an action movie.  Half of the film is best summed up as Chuck Norris kicking hillbillies in the face in a tourist replica western town, not that there's really anything wrong with that.  And when it comes time for the anonymous, faceless army of truckers to come save J.D.'s bacon, vigilante justice is never going to feel so right.

So like I was saying, I don't even really know what to tell you about "Breaker! Breaker!"  This isn't, by any reasonable set of standards, a decent movie.  Even ironically, I think it's entirely possible that you could be bored by this.  No, I think that you're going to have to have an honest, deep-seated appreciation for custom vans, Chuck Norris kicking things (and none of this internet-style, ironic Norris appreciation, I mean the real deal), CB radios and truckers, dirtbikes, and Wranglers to enjoy "Breaker! Breaker!"  There's probably a better movie with these elements, but if you don't like all that to begin with, you'll be lost here.  I had a ball, and I have no way to defend that.  I can't recommend this movie at all, but I still thought it was awesome.

1 / 5 - TV (HD)

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Made - 2001

"Made" - 2001
Dir. by Jon Favreau - 1 hr. 35 min.

Official Trailer

by Clayton Hollifield

There's two ways to look at "Made."  The negative one is that it seemed like for the decade following "Pulp Fiction," you couldn't swing two dead cats tied together by their tails without hitting a crime/gangster indie film with quick dialogue and a million f-bombs.  The other way to look at "Made" is to consider it an alternate-universe sequel to "Swingers," a sort of throwback to the idea of a comedy duo making multiple films in different settings, but essentially using the same characters.  Either way, it's an early indie directorial effort by Jon Favreau (who wrote this, as well), who had only directed a couple of TV movies prior, and who would go on to direct movies like "Iron Man" and "Elf," and an indie movie from right before Vince Vaughn finally took off in more mainstream comedies.

Bobby (Favreau) and Ricky (Vince Vaughn) are lifelong friends, and Bobby is earnestly pursuing a boxing career, all the while trying to avoid having to work for Max (Peter Falk), a local crime boss.  The boxing thing isn't going as well as it could, and neither is Bobby's "day job," driving for his girlfriend/exotic dancer, Jessica (Famke Janssen).  Ricky's a motor-mouthed hot-head, constantly talking himself into trouble.  After an incident, Bobby can't put off Max anymore, and ends up doing a job out of his comfort zone in order to square things.  He also vouches for Ricky (reluctantly), as it seems Bobby's the only way that Ricky can get any kind of work.  They head for New York, and are there to act as muscle for an exchange of goods for cash, and Ricky threatens to derail things at every turn.

There are some very strong things about this movie, but chief among them is the chemistry between Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau.  And I doubt most people would be all that interested in seeing "Made" if they weren't already aware of that from watching "Swingers."  I think this was the first thing they'd done together since that, which is kind of like how "Dogma" was the first thing Matt Damon and Ben Affleck did together following "Good Will Hunting."  It's not that the second movie doesn't have some appeal, but the real draw is these actors reprising their roles in another movie, even if it's a completely different setting.  Bobby is weary and exhausted from having to constantly babysit Ricky, and Ricky gets all the great lines.  There's a great uncomfortable scene on an airplane that leaves you wondering just how far Ricky's going to push things, and that scenario plays out over and over again.  Ricky is ignorant, ignorant of that ignorance, aggressive and mouthy, and yet almost always seems to escape any real consequences of his actions.  It's pretty much an ideal comedic character.

On the other hand, having lived through the great indie crime movie boom of the late '90s (which, for history's sake, I will say ran through up to about early September of 2001), I can pretty definitively say that this isn't the best of the bunch.  There are too many parts of this film that are cobbled from others (the "worst night ever" from "Pulp Fiction," the incessant swearing was just part of the times, the verbally dominating bosses also from "Pulp Fiction," I guess I should just go ahead and say that "Made" owes a bit to "Pulp Fiction").  Although the story flows pretty well (largely due to the bickering between Ricky and Bobby), there's not much in the way of moments of true drama.  Things happen, and it's clear that Bobby is a good guy at heart, but this is basically a light comedy with a lot of R-rated language (I know I keep harping on this, and language rarely bothers me, but Vaughn had a line that must've contained four or five f-bombs.  In ONE SENTENCE.  And that wasn't entirely uncommon), and a neat bow tied around the story at the end.

"Made" is not unpleasant, or poorly done.  If you take a look at Favreau's career as a mainstream director that would come, this film feels like an outlier.  If feels like the wrong tone before he really found his voice - probably a testament to Quentin Tarantino's immense influence on cinema (and particularly independent cinema) following "Pulp Fiction."  Favreau's tight pacing and directorial chops are present, and his ability to work light comedy would pop up in "Elf" and "Cowboys and Aliens," and his handling of rapid-fire dialogue made him ideal for the first two "Iron Man" movies.  "Made" is a necessary step in Favreau's career to get to those other films that people really know him from, but itself is not a complete package.  It's enjoyable, there's some great lines, but it's probably better understood as a step in his progression as a director than as a significant piece of art on it's own.

2.5 / 5 - TV (HD)

Monday, July 7, 2014

A Hard Day's Night - 1964

"A Hard Day's Night" - 1964
Dir. by Richard Lester - 1 hr. 27 min.

50th Anniversary Trailer

by Clayton Hollifield

There are a lot of different stories you could tell about the Beatles, depending on what your mood was or which time period you wanted to focus on.  For a lot of people, the story was wrapped by the time we even found out about the Beatles in the first place, and the story was discovering that the Fab Four actually were a lot better than most of their solo careers would suggest (even though three of the four have essential albums to their credit), and that they had split acrimoniously, and would never work together again, and that we had nothing to look forward to except periodic reissue campaigns.  "A Hard Day's Night" is something else; a peek at the personalities of the band when they still got along, and could still have a good time together, and were still looking forward, with several albums of fantastic music in their immediate futures.

The plot isn't exactly the point here.  But just so you know, the Beatles must get from point A (a city) to point B (a television studio), largely via train, for a big broadcast event.  In the mean time, they get chased round by hysteric teenagers, look for a good time, try to escape boring times, play music, and babysit Paul's grandfather (Wilfrid Brambell), who is more trouble than he appears at first blush.

Part of the draw of "A Hard Day's Night" is seeing the Beatles performing (sort-of) their hits.  There's no point in debating the merit of the Beatles' music; it's beyond good or bad, it's foundational.  But there is a thrill to seeing the Beatles, the actual Beatles, playing their own songs.  By the time I was aware of the Beatles as a kid, John Lennon was already gone, and George Harrison wasn't in the public eye.  The first song I heard by him (that I knew was by him) was "Got My Mind Set On You," which was pretty un-Beatle-like.

Ringo was a goofball that showed up on late-night TV every now and then, and Paul had spent a decade or two with Wings and doing his solo stuff; he was a staple of rock radio for many years.  But my introduction to them, collectively, had been as grown men (much in the same way that I was introduced to Robert Plant and Jimmy Page not through their Led Zeppelin work, but through Plant's MTV-friendly hits of the late '80s and stupid Coverdale/Page), not as the mop-topped popsters that spawned Beatlemania.

There's an energy and a looseness to their on-screen presences that really couldn't be duplicated elsewhere - they were famous for their fifteen minute concerts during the height of Beatlemania, logic being that firstly, you couldn't hear them over a stadium full of girls screaming at the top of their lungs, and secondly, why try to play over the top of that?  The performance in the animal storage portion of the train is maybe the best example of this (and a wry joke as well), even crammed together in a pen like and with animals, the handful of girls who have stumbled across the performance keep trying to reach through the chicken wire to touch them.

I feel like "A Hard Day's Night" is a movie that would reward repeat viewings - the dialogue and wit is very quickly-paced, musical performances always go down easy, and there's a lot of little things along the way that brought a smile to my face (like George's being forced into a one-man focus group, or watching Ringo dance, or really, whenever Ringo pops up.  Ringo Starr makes me happy just by existing).  It's entirely likely that I missed a lot of what's going on, and it was still a blast.  The movie feels like a greatest hits of the Beatles' dialogue between one another, and none of it feels forced.  It's just four guys who like to have a good time (they run around a lot, they must have had a lot of excess energy), were really good at playing music, and always had a screaming throng waiting just around the corner.  Out of all of the Beatles stories, it's one of the fun Beatles stories, lively and joyous.

4.5 / 5 - Theatre

Sunday, July 6, 2014

SubUrbia - 1996

"SubUrbia" - 1996
Dir. by Richard Linklater - 2 hrs. 1 min.

Official Trailer

by Clayton Hollifield

I'm often frustrated with trying to explain why something is a really good story, when there is resistance to it based on surface attributes.  The cynical part of me says that people, in general, are unable to sympathize with anything or anyone that is not immediately and obviously like they are, and then refuse to pay attention to anything further.  The ability to look beyond one's own experiences and surroundings, and understand them to some degree is the basic foundation of interacting with the larger world in a meaningful way.  Dismissing something because it didn't come in exactly the right package or in the right color to match your sofa is an enduring and infuriating human trait.  So understand this: I am going to try to explain why "SubUrbia" is a really good story, and every time you roll your eyes or get dismissive because it's not brand new, or because it's trappings are different than what you're used to, I will judge you harshly.  If someone is too distracted by Sooze's corduroy pants and the general fashion of the time to notice what's actually going on here in "SubUrbia," then I figure that you're probably not smart enough to form any coherent thoughts about a film that's asking questions of meaning, and asking you to participate in the dialogue.

The buzz sentence about "SubUrbia" would probably (definitely) include words like disaffected, angsty, GenX, slackers, malcontents, teens, and anything else you can think of in that vein.  Roughly a year after graduating high school, a bunch of kids ritually hang out in a convenience store parking lot, drinking and not doing much else.  Jeff (Giovanni Ribisi) seems permanently addled, or maybe befuddled, but definitely directionless.  He's dating Sooze (Amie Carey), a performance artist who wants to move to New York and go to school.  Rounding out the crew are Buff (Steve Zahn), a sort of skate punk, Tim (Nicky Katt), an air force washout, and recovering alcoholic Bee-Bee (Dina Waters).  What make this night different is that one of their former classmates, Pony (Jayce Bartok) has suddenly turned into a MTV darling, and his tour is rolling through town, and he might stop by the corner to catch up and reminisce.  Sooze is completely enraptured by this, and the guys are predictably a bit jealous and not very enthusiastic about him showing up.
One of the hallmarks of Richard Linklater's films is a sort of curiosity about the world around.  Even about things that seem mundane or eccentric, Linklater's work has genuine interest and empathy for those that are just existing, even without purpose.  Even among the other prominent indie directors of this era, Linklater's unique in his ability to make an interesting story take place, even without plot or anything meaningful happening.  The tone of his work is so strong that it trumps the need for events.  "SubUrbia" was his fourth film, and the first one that he didn't write.  Eric Bogosian adapted one of his own plays for the screen here, and the resulting film is an interesting mash-up of the sort of characters that Linklater would normally choose to pay attention to, but with a much more cynical, defeatist streak than you'd expect.

The characters of this film aren't particularly sympathetic, but who can expect heroism in a suburban wasteland?  There are no big challenges to overcome, save for inertia.  And Pony's arrival complicates matters - he's pretty much a big dork, and his success baffles Jeff, Buff, and Tim.  Jeff can't pull himself out of the mire; he's dropped out of college already, lives in a tent in his parent's garage, and is frustrated and angered by pretty much everything around him.  He cannot figure a way out, he can't even figure out why he should try.  Buff is a goofball, and Tim is a malignant, antagonistic bully who is trying to take everything down with him.  Sooze is not presented as being a particularly talented artist, and is also not particularly good at paying attention to much of anything besides Pony; after performing a piece entitled "Burger Manifesto Part One: the Dialetical Expression of Testosterone," which has her humping the air and screaming "fuck all the men" over and over again, she flips out when Jeff (her boyfriend) is put off by it.

The closest thing to a sympathetic character is Nazeer (Ajay Naidu), who runs the convenience store, and is constantly being taunted by Tim and Buff.

One of the keys to the film is Giovanni Ribisi's work.  He may not be very heroic, but at least he's trying to think things through.  His body language makes it clear that this is very difficult work; that's not to say that his character isn't very smart, but it's as if he's just an IQ point or two short of the task at hand.  One also gets the feeling that he might be able to figure it out if he kept better company; Buff is a like a fly buzzing around him, Tim is a malicious, mean-spirited liar, Sooze is too self-absorbed to do anything but overreact, but that might just be a function of the character's age.  "SubUrbia" is a film with a limited cast, but Ribisi makes the most of that, and makes sure that his character is always worth watching.

The question that Jeff is struggling with is one that's been part of the American fabric since the first TV set warmed up and started receiving signals: is there any value to a life if you're not a star?  Or even more to the point, is there any inherent value to life?  The different characters have answered this question differently, and only Jeff seems to be the one voicing the question.  Pony has value and gets attention because he's on TV, but he was a dork in school, and he's still a dork after "success."  He appears to be following some idiotic script for fame, almost like the Leif Garrett episode of "Behind the Music," but this movie predated that episode by three years.  Tim has given up, but seems determined to go out with a bang, taking out anyone else along the way that he can.  Buff skates along, finding people who will buy into his bullshit.  Sooze buys into the notion of fame equaling value, basking in Pony's angelic glow.  Even the notion of producing art to escape monotony and boredom comes off like a fool's errand; Pony and Sooze are far more interested in themselves than anything they could produce.

But all of this is talk and suggestions until "SubUrbia" takes a very dark turn near the end.  One of the things that I like about "SubUrbia" is that it starts off as a movie about theory, and winds up as a story about the perils of putting those theories into practice.  And Jeff kind of ends up being steamrolled by life - the time he's spent being aware of his dilemma and trying to make sense of it leaves him on the outside looking in.  Of all of the depressing statements made here, the most potent is that ignorance is bliss, and that people will pay the price for trying to stand still in the middle of a hurricane.  Figuring things out might be personally gratifying, but if you don't come up with a good, workable answer to whether or not life can have inherent value outside of the perceptions of others, you'll lose both the opportunity to succeed and the positive perception from others.

These questions might seem like they're from another point in history, but they feel valid today.  Even through the '90s veneer, "SubUrbia" is a good story because there is drama, an attempt to tease out some kind of meaning from meaninglessness, and because the characters are distinct and act accordingly.  Like in "Slacker," a fundamental part of the story (and one of the reasons that the characters are frequently lost in thought, deep inside their own heads) is that this is an existence with a lack of stimulation, a void of distraction with which to pass time.  That in itself is a valuable look into another era, a pre- Apple-branded gadgetry era, where people actually had to cope with boredom without a shiny pair of keys to jangle in front of one's face always within arm's reach.  If it seems that Jeff is thinking things through too much, I'd suggest that maybe we don't think things through enough.

4 / 5 - TV (HD)

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Hardbodies - 1984

"Hardbodies" - 1984
Dir. by Mark Griffiths - 1 hr. 28 min.

Official Trailer

by Clayton Hollifield

There are bad movies, and there are bad movies that are still entertaining.  "Hardbodies" is, without question, a bad, stereo-typically 1980s film of little merit.  But this film and it's filmmakers are highly aware of this, don't care, and made this movie anyways.  It is as if someone said, "You know what people like?  Boobs."  And then spent an hour and a half delivering pretty much that.  And, begrudgingly, I admit that they are right.  Boobs are nice.  And, in a way, I can appreciate a movie that feels like anything containing more fabric than a two-piece bikini means that you're overdressed.

Scotty (Grant Cramer) is a beach-bum who lives in a trash-heap, and doesn't care about much more than having a good time (although he does have a steady girlfriend that he's true to).  When Scotty is evicted from his beach-side hovel, a new opportunity presents itself in the form of three middle-aged schlubs, Hunter (Gary Wood), Albert Brooks' fatter brother, Rounder (Michael Rapport), and older cowboy (manure salesman, actually) Ashby (Sorrells Pickard).  They've got money, possibly the raddest poontang palace in history (one of the bedrooms actually has a '57 Chevy as the dashboard, and the controls turn the room into a disco scene), sweet cars, and absolutely no chance with the local hotties.  Upon seeing the ease with which Scotty picks up "hardbodies" (stay with me here, this is going to be recurring theme), the three men hire Scotty to teach them how to creep on everything a day older than jailbait (and yes, there is actually a "jailbait" discussion scene) and make up for lost time.

Part of the joy of "Hardbodies" (aside from the boobs) is that it feels like someone had one idea (or more like one word), and then wanted to craft a world around it.  All those hot chicks roller-skating up and down the pier?  Hardbodies.  Need a gym for women to work out in?  Hardbodies.  Got an all-female band with a terrible name (Diaper Rash, for the record)?  Hardbodies.  It's like watching a proto-Pauly Shore movie, where he just has one word that he repeats for the duration of the movie, but even though it's completely dumb, it's still kind of funny because everyone knows he's being dumb.  And would you prefer to watch Paul yShore talk about philosophy?  Probably not, at least not for 90 minutes.  And definitely not without a ton of bare boobs, because that always speeds things along.

Did I mention there's a lot of boobs on display in "Hardbodies?"  I kind of think each actress should have gotten a co-starring credit for her rack.  This is the most important thing about "Hardbodies": it delivers what you think it will.  Sometimes, a movie that promises a bad sex comedy will throw in a topless scene or two, and then you have to admit that you at least got that.  Not so here.  Director Mark Griffiths is like the Michael Bay of sweater meat.  If one explosion...  I mean one topless woman is good, maybe six more would be better?  Forget that, make it eight.  Too much dialogue wearing things down?  Pop off that top, honey!  To be entirely fair to female viewers, though, you do get a clean look at Scotty's bare rump pretty quickly (like, immediately after the opening credit montage), and it's not like it's only the women who choose not to wear shirts most of the time.  "Hardbodies" is a tanned, toned, showing off your time at the gym kind of movie.

There's a lot of stuff in the actual story that would drive people batty, if "Hardbodies" was made today.  The idea of hiring a kid to teach middle-aged guys how to trick women into sleeping with them (for the record, this involves buying new clothes, throwing a bash at your awesome house, and sealing the deal with cocaine) would be a tough one to build a movie around (although there's never a shortage of movies purporting a "system" for pulling chicks, which suggests the intended audience for movies like this might not be teenagers, but their frustrated dads).  There would be a never-ending stream of unamused people suggesting that these characters would be better off seeking more fulfilling relationships, preferably with people of their own age,  You know, since that's how things have historically worked between men and women.  The trio ply women with intoxicants, promise connections for potential careers...  You know, standard scumbag stuff.  But Hunter learns his lesson quickly when he's rebuffed early in the film, wanting to know what's in it for her, since she "doesn't fuck fossils for free."  It's a catchy turn of phrase, which Ashby turns into a country song later in the film, as his "filly" does nude yoga on the beach, before pouring a glass of champagne on herself.  Both sides are in it for personal gain, which doesn't suggest much in the way of noble aspirations.

There's a lot that's funny here.  But a lot of the things that are funny are like this:

There's great '80s fashion, like the fat guy in the belly shirt that reads "boogie til you puke."  There are miles of beautiful women, only one of whom has any problem with displaying her goods.  That's the biggest thing "Hardbodies" has going for it; the people involved knew exactly what kind of film they were making, make no apologies for it, and then double down on it.  That kind of confidence goes a ways towards making what is unfortunately still not recognized by the Academy for excellence in toplessness somewhat palatable.  And, of the cliches it does make use of, it doesn't try to make anything into a giant deal.  This isn't a "save the house" movie, it's more like "save Scotty's relationship, because Hunter turns out to be a dick" movie.  It doesn't make "Hardbodies" good, but I knew what I was expecting out of this film, and got more than that out of it.  Getting anything at all out of it would have been a minor victory, so I can't get upset at all if it's not an all-time classic.  It's stupid, pretty, fun eye-candy, and that's good enough sometimes.

2 / 5 - TV