Making the Grade (1984) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

A classic 1980's comedy premise for a John Hughes movie without John Hughes. A rich kid doesn't want to go to his senior year of prep school, so he hires a poor kid from the Bronx to do it for him. It's the comedy version of School Ties

I think you can predict most of what will happen, so I won't bog you down with that.

Although it is generally predictable and sometimes too low in energy, the film has some good moments, most of them provided not by the star (the poor kid, Judd Nelson), but by the rich kid, who turned out to be a richly-imagined character performed at a very high energy level by a writer named Dana Olsen, who is basically a shorter, funnier version of Tim Robbins. Olsen only acted in one more movie, and that only in a miniscule role, but he really stole the show in this film by bringing off a miracle. He converted a potential ogre into a likeable person by turning the snooty dialogue into knowing self-parody by pitching it way over the top, thereby having his character state to the other characters, "I know how these rich boys behave, and I'm parodying that, but I'm decent underneath. I just have a liberated sense of humor". He does a few scenes that had me in stitches. I doubt that most actors would have gone for this interpretation, but it worked beautifully.

Mystery #1: Why didn't Dana Olsen stick with performing? Not only might he have given us some good laughs, but he might have abandoned his writing career, which gave us such memorable fare as George of the Jungle and The 'burbs.

A few other laughs were delivered by a very young Andrew Dice Clay in his first movie (By the way, this was also Judd Nelson's first movie). I howled at the Diceman's pluperfect impersonation of John Travolta in "Staying Alive". Diceman was a surprisingly agile dancer for such a bulky guy. That must have been hilarious when it came out - Staying Alive was made in 1983, Making the Grade the following year, so the parody was fresh. Unfortunately, not many people will get the joke these days, since Staying Alive, the ill-conceived sequel to Saturday Night Fever, is remembered dimly, if at all, and the dance number is completely out of character for the bookie played by the Diceman. It's a case of - dare I say it - gratuitous non-nudity.


Jonna Lee does a dark love scene with Judd Nelson, but I don't think there's anything more than a side-rear view of her breast

an anonymous beautiful blond woman is topless in the hall outside a dorm room

Some other characters were done well, especially the world's most out-of-shape phys ed coach, who joins the kids for porno movies. 

Worth a watch for some predictable but pleasant times. 

Mystery #2: The movie ends with the promise of a sequel that never happened. I have no clue what the story is.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 1.85:1

  • no meaningful features


The Critics Vote

  • Maltin 1.5/4

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 4.9 
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, it's a C, the usual predictable prep school situations competently performed, and enlivened by the insanity of the Dana Olsen character. Not very special, but watchable.

Return to the Movie House home page