Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Television Review: HIGH SCHOOL U.S.A. (1983, Rod Amateau)

Stars: 3.4 of 5.
Running Time: 100 minutes.
Tag-line: "The wrong boy just met the right girl at...HIGH SCHOOL U.S.A."
Notable Cast or Crew: Michael J. Fox, Crispin Glover, Anthony Edwards, Bob Denver, Dana Plato, Todd Bridges, Dwayne Hickman, Jon Gries (TERRORVISION, JOYSTICKS, Roger Linus on LOST). Directed by Rod Amateau (THE GARBAGE PAIL KIDS MOVIE).
Best one-liner: "Nice going, Chuckie. Now who's the bigger lame-o? You or me?"

Cornball, made-for-TV teen shenanigans cut from the same cloth as, say, MIDNIGHT MADNESS or MY BEST FRIEND IS A VAMPIRE. Helmed by Rod Amateau and packed to the gills with washed-up and up-and-coming TV actors alike, HIGH SCHOOL USA is full of gentle slapstick, eyebrow-curling tomfoolery, and a sprinkling of ingredients that'll make you go 'WHUTTT?!'

I must also mention that the director, Rod Amateau is responsible for one of my favorite movies- THE GARBAGE PAIL KIDS MOVIE, so I kept a sharp eye out for any similarities. The only one I could find was a character who bears some resemblance to the Garbage Pail Kid, "Windy Winston."

Note similarity.

Originally pitched as a TV pilot, we're entreated to a tumultuous battle between nerds and preps (I love that there are no jocks in this universe). Representing the Nerds are a scrappy Michael J. Fox;

a gawky Crispin Glover (pre-BACK TO THE FUTURE but already acting like a primo whack job and stealing the damn show);

DIFF'RENT STROKES' Todd Bridges (and his zany homemade robot!);

I can't remember if the train conductor's hat is explained or not.

and the stock 'flunked senior year twelve times and has a couple kids' guy

(played by Jon Gries), among others.

The Preps are basically defined by a douchey Anthony Edwards (REVENGE OF THE NERDS, MIRACLE MILE), who rules the school to such an extent, he's apparently in charge of distributing grant money to teachers (!).

Note the popped collar and car phone.

There's frequent use of classic 80's insults like "meatball," "turkey," and "lame-o"; the line "I'm never taking my clothes off again for anyone, not even my husband, unless he's Burt Reynolds"; and some good old-fashioned blind-sploitation (combined with Nazi-sploitation!). We also adhere to one of the ground rules of 80's cinema: if a massive, special-order cake in the shape of a building ever appears, someone will soon be hurled into it.

"You ruined my cake, my suit, and this party!"

There's roller derbies, popped collars, teased hair, and, yes, it all ends on a freeze frame. Probably my favorite politically incorrect moment occurs when Crispin's dad's beloved car is destroyed in a preppy prank and the situation is ameliorated by getting dad (a sleazy Bob Denver!) blackout sloshed and staging a drunk-driving accident! WHUTTT?!

This would never fly today. And when did Bob Denver start looking like David Warner?

In all, I am not ashamed to admit that I thought this was pretty schweet. A little over three stars.

-Sean Gill


J.D. said...

Huh, sounds like the prequel to BACHELOR PARTY. ; )

Wow, what an odd, eccentric cast. Fascinating!

Sean Gill said...

It's certainly a weird little flick. And I must admit that I discovered it only by browsing Rod Amateau's rich filmography (which may or may not have something to do with my nearly perverse love for THE GARBAGE PAIL KIDS MOVIE).

skeelo said...

I remember seeing this "show" so many times when I was a kid. I love the garbage pail kid connection. Hhaaha Isn't there a car race or chase at the end that resolves everything?

Sean Gill said...


Yes, indeed- a race to end all races. Possibly the best of its kind since REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE... or at least since GREASE 2.