Mischief (1985) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna
Scoop's notes in white
The 1980s were the Golden Age of "coming of age" comedies. The obscure Mischief wasn't one of the best, but was a fairly good one, although it did little at the box office and has since fallen into oblivion. It was a "small" picture. It didn't have the charismatic star power of Risky Business or Ferris Buehler; it didn't have the zany raunch of Porky's or Revenge of the Nerds; and it didn't have the surreal wit of Better Off Dead. Hell, it didn't even have Curtis Armstrong! But it did have a generosity of spirit and a romantic view of the 1950s that made it and still makes it enjoyable, if not always believable. In fact, it is probably more relaxing to watch this film now than it was in 1985, because our genuine memories of the 1950s have slipped farther away, and ever more of the period's reality has been replaced by a romanticized view like the one exhibited in this flick. I suppose that in another 20 years this view of the 50s will seem more real than reality.
The basic plot is familiar and forgettable. Our hero, the average guy, is still a virgin in small town Ohio in 1956, but has his eye on the hottest girl in school (Kelly Preston). Attaining his goal seems unlikely, since he's about the size of Spike Lee and still rides his Schwinn to High School, but he stumbles into a stroke of luck. A tough, handsome, and cool delinquent from Chicago moves in next door, and makes our hero's cherry his senior project. It helps that both Kelly Preston and her best friend have a crush on Mr. Cool, thus enabling a double date situation, and giving our hero a chance to slip into Preston's life. As it turns out, the cool guy falls in love with the other girl, so it's all good. Our hero eventually loses the dream babe, but by then he has grown up and realized that they aren't right for each other anyway.
Besides, the dorky chick with a crush on him has had her braces removed by then, and with the addition of contact lenses ...
Well, you get the idea.
It's not an important film, nor even a very memorable one, but a pleasant watch.
Some quick thoughts about Mischief.
1. I don't mind watching the past through a rose tint, but some of the period detail is far too romanticized. Assuming that it takes place in 1956, every car in this film is new. That's crazy. Why isn't anyone driving a 1949 Packard or a 1937 Hudson? You could make similar comments about the houses and stores, all of which seem to have a fresh coat of paint.
2. The sexual conquests are also romanticized. The screenwriter was recalling the period of his youth - he would have been 19 when these events took place - but this storyline is the author's sexual fantasy, not an account of reality. Our wimpy little hero gets laid too easily. First of all, just about nobody got laid in 1956, not even the very coolest people. Even by the time I went to high school (1962-1966), I didn't know anyone who actually got laid with another high school student. Not even the quarterback. Some of the guys would sneak off and enlist the services of some more exotic ... er ... fancy women, but my friends and I never even did that, and neither did most of the "good" kids. Oh, sure we always carried a rubber in our wallets, but that was just for show. The very luckiest might get laid on prom night, but even that was uncommon, and required a long-term dating relationship. Sometimes a "good girl" turned up pregnant, but it was really rare. I think there was one in my high school out of 250 senior girls. And I lived in a big city. The kids in this movie not only lived ten years earlier, but in small town America to boot. It just isn't realistic that this clumsy inexperienced kid was soon getting invited over for a weekend with the hottest girl in school, with her parents out of town, and that they were actually having intercourse rather than a substitute activity with no risk of pregnancy. In real life, this guy would have graduated from high school as a virgin, although he might have gotten close. He might not have admitted virginity to his friends, but in his heart he would not have been that ashamed of it. If he was a real romantic, he'd remember the kisses, the smell of his date's perfume, the breezes of a summer night, watching snowflakes melt on her lips on a winter day, and the exhilaration of being in love for the first time. The actual rumpy-pumpy would come later.
3. The tunes are great. The film features a steady stream of the very best mid-50s doowop rock from Elvis and Buddy Holly and just about everyone else who was anyone then. If you remember the era, or even if you just love your oldies station, this score is 45 RPM nostalgia heaven.
4. The characterizations are reasonably complex. Kelly Preston, although the hottest girl in school, is always friendly with our hero, even in the beginning when she simply thinks of him as a klutz. She seems like a nice person even when she reveals how shallow she is at the end of the film. We sense that she's not mean, and she doesn't regret her sexual liaison with our hero, but she just isn't in love with him, and is ready to move on to somebody hotter. The other three main characters are also multi-dimensional. The only important character who fails to ring true is the stock teen film antagonist, the usual rich snooty Marmalard clone who looks down on everyone.
5. Although the film in general doesn't have much original to say, it does have some moments which brought back vivid memories for me. The schoolyard dialogue, the slang, the pranks, and the sexual misinformation included a lot of elements which seemed familiar to me, and not just because of some post-modern faux memories induced by other movies, but from memories of things that really happened.
6. The love stories may have been unlikely, but overall the lead actors and the script did a good job on showing the nature of male friendships in the 50s. Doug McKeon did an excellent job in the lead. He had some talent, but no charisma, so he had kind of a fringe career, the kind of acting resume that pays the bills, but leaves one short of being a household name or a recognizable face. McKeon is still acting today. He has a 2004 credit at IMDb, although I can't recall seeing him in any of the movies he is supposed to have made in the past few years.
7. Kelly Preston - completely naked - full-frontal - standing up - in daylight, her face and her body close to perfection. That alone made the film worth watching.
Tuna's notes in yellow
Mischief (1985) is a coming-of-age buddy story set in a small Ohio town in 1956. Doug McKeon plays the son of the local dentist, and he's expected to take over his father's practice. In his senior year of High School he fancies Kelly Preston, who is the object of every teenager's lust, but is currently seeing one of the town's rich brats. McKeon is the human equivalent of Bambi, and trips over himself whenever she is around. Everything changes for Doug when Gene (Chris Nash) moves onto his block. Gene is a bad boy with a motorcycle and James Dean's style and charm, the kind of guy your mother warns you about, and the kind who can have his pick of girls. In fact, he had to leave Chicago when the mothers of two of his conquests had him kicked out of school. The biker and the dentist's son become unlikely friends, and Gene swears he will put McKeon in the sack with Preston. As for Gene, he wants Preston's best friend Bunny (Catherine Mary Stewart), and also wants to even a score with the richest boy and biggest asshole in the school who is dating her.
The other main character is the sound track, which featured every 50s mega-hit I can remember.
The nostalgic value of the film is outstanding, with excellent attention to period details, realistic performances, plenty of laughs. I remember the era and the music and the attitudes, and I never cringed - except when they totaled a gorgeous red 1956 Chevy convertible.
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